The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Pico & Waffles

Why I Read It: I saw it recommended by some other book bloggers (especially Stainless Steel Droppings).

Where I Got It: The Library.

Who I Recommend This To: If you like detailed, suspenseful, multi-generational tales, this is for you.

Narrators: Jill Tanner, Bianca Amato

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2006)

Length: ~16 hours

Ms. Vida Winter, a most famous, elderly, and nationally treasured writer, has lied to the press for decades about her past. She has finally decided that her life story needs to be told and she has chosen Ms. Margaret Lea. This book is a record of her distant and tragic past, and quite the entertaining tale it makes too. Interwoven with Ms. Winter’s history is the mystery and personal loss of Margaret’s life.

I loved this story. It was so rich in building the suspense a piece at a time. Towards the end, I had a few moments where I had guessed what was about to be revealed and I found myself holding my breath, waiting to hear if I had it right. Set in England, perhaps in 1970s or 1980s with Ms. Winter and Margaret meeting and making an agreement in which Margaret doesn’t ask any questions that jump ahead in the story and Ms. Winter doesn’t lie.. Ms. Winter tells her tale starting with her own parents, going back to a time when her great house was just starting to decline. Truly, Diane Setterfield laid the grounds for the mystery of Winter’s life, but then coupling it with Margaret’s own tragic beginning made for excellent reading.

While many of the characters in this story are long dead, as they are part of Winter’s past, the author wrote them so believably real and their existence is still reflected in how they shaped and molded Ms. Winter as a young lady. From her own emotionally absent parents to the gardener and the house mistress, and even a short-term governess. All these people had a piece in the tragedy of Winter’s life, some good and some bad and some a mix. I appreciated that in the end, Winter wasn’t free of her burden of guilt and bad choices past.

The narrators, Jill Tanner and Bianca Amato, were an excellent set to perform this book as it is told through the eyes of two ladies. The old lady regret came through clearly in the performance and Maragaret’s longing for a piece of her soul lost colored all her thoughts and deeds.

What I Liked: The suspense; the generational history; Margaret’s loss and yet she perseveres; the uncovering of Ms. Winter’s past a little at a time.

What I Disliked: At the end, there was still some mystery as to the twins – I wanted an answer as to why one was cruel and one was sweet.

8 thoughts on “The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield”

  1. I read this book a l o n g time ago and so I’m not going to be able to shed any insight into the differences between the twins. I can remember the general gist of the story and I really did enjoy it but a lot of the finer details are now a bit hazy. Makes me want to have another look.
    Lynn 😀

  2. So glad that you read and enjoyed this one. Ever since I first read it I have been continually on the lookout for the next Thirteenth Tale. I was so blown away by this book and it is an experience that I’ve been wanting to duplicate with this kind of fiction. It is good, so very good!!!

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