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All children mythologize their birthSo begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever present pain Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida s storytelling but remains suspicious of the author s sincerity She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield is a gothic suspense novel, the author s first published book in 2006 Vida Winter, a famous novelist in England, has evaded journalists questions about her past, refusing to answer their inquiries and spinning elaborate tales that they later discover to be false Her entire life is a secret and, for over fifty years, reporters and biographers have tried innumerable methods in an attempt to extract the truth fro The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield is a gothic suspense novel, the author s first published book in 2006 Vida Winter, a famous novelist in England, has evaded journalists questions about her past, refusing to answer their inquiries and spinning elaborate tales that they later discover to be false Her entire life is a secret and, for over fifty years, reporters and biographers have tried innumerable methods in an attempt to extract the truth from Winter With her health quickly fading, Winter enlists Margaret Lea, a bookish amateur biographer, to hear her story and write her biography With her own family secrets, Lea finds the process of unraveling the past for Winter bringing her to confront her own ghosts 2009 1386 557 9644425448 21 Sigh I really, really wanted to like this book I heard good things about it, and it has many elements I usually love in a novel a Victorian sensibility, questions of identity and sisterhood as well as siblinghood generally , meta commentary on writing, and a plain, quiet, somewhat chilly protagonist who prefers books to people The protagonist, Margaret, grew up in a bookstore and learned to read using 19th century novels, and there are clear parallels in the story to Jane Eyre, Wuthering He Sigh I really, really wanted to like this book I heard good things about it, and it has many elements I usually love in a novel a Victorian sensibility, questions of identity and sisterhood as well as siblinghood generally , meta commentary on writing, and a plain, quiet, somewhat chilly protagonist who prefers books to people The protagonist, Margaret, grew up in a bookstore and learned to read using 19th century novels, and there are clear parallels in the story to Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Turn of the Screw, and so on.And yet, with all it had going for it, somehow it fell flat for me Somehow it felt slight and, eventually, tedious at the same time There were definitely many interesting moments, but for some reason, the gothic elements of the story never swept me up in the passion and scandal the way it would if the Brontes or Wilkie Collins wrote it Obviously this is an unfair comparison since the Brontes and Collins are my favorite writers, but then again, if you re going to model your story on Jane Eyre and indeed, there were parts that really beat you over the head with it, stating the obvious instead of allowing the reader to infer for herself , you should be up to the task, right One of the problems, in my opinion, is that it seems Setterfield wanted a Chinese box construction ala Wuthering Heights, but whereas that novel drew me in and made me feel like I was personally sitting at Nelly s feet as she told me the story of Heathcliff and Cathy, somehow Setterfield s construction in which the novelist Vida Winter tells Margaret her story, and does so using third person, for a reason revealed later in the novel feels very distanced Margaret has a personal obsession which is supposed to parallel Miss the novel s term, not mine Winter s, but this obsession, for me at least, had me wishing Margaret would just get over it already Miss Winter s story stops adding much new information at a certain point, and later we are given the diaries of a minor character, which essentially only goes over information we already know Yet despite this, the ending feels rushed, and the mysterious thirteenth tale, which Margaret receives in writing toward the end, is only excerpted One wishes A.S Byatt had written this novel, as I suspect Setterfield may not have felt up to the task of writing the thirteenth tale, which has a fascinating premise Byatt, I am sure, would have written a gorgeous tale to end the book with.That s the bottom line, I suppose I just don t think Setterfield is that good a stylist The story should have drawn me in but didn t, and I set it down to writing that simply wasn t as imaginative or lovely as it could have been If I read that someone made hot, sweet tea ONE MORE TIME I was going to go crazy I like hot, sweet tea as much as the next Victorianist, but can t you find something else to describe, or a different way of doing it With all of the wonderful Victorian style writing going on now from former academics like Sarah Waters and AS Byatt, it s too bad this book didn t measure up I kept comparing it to the in my opinion wonderful The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which is also a first novel by a former academic The Historian has faults it s a little repetitious in certain points, it s unwieldly, there are some logic issues but it is so true to its Victorian predecessor Bram Stoker s Dracula in feeling, and it completely sucks you in pun intended I have discovered a personal preference I would rather have an overlong, unweildy, messy wonderful novel that completely absorbs me than a shorter, tidier, but slight novel that doesn t touch me emotionally Wow, did I just write a review that s longer than the book I just read There is something about words In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts Inside you they work their magicI don t know if I ve ever loved words so much.Lots of people told me that this was a book I needed to read, but many of those people also warned me that I might find it slow So I went into The ThirtThere is something about words In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts Inside you they work their magicI don t know if I ve ever loved words so much.Lots of people told me that this was a book I needed to read, but many of those people also warned me that I might find it slow So I went into The Thirteenth Tale prepared for a subtle plot that moved at a gentle pace well maybe my expectations are to blame but that wasn t what I got Slow Not for me There was not a slow moment in this story because the prose itself was dynamic and consumingly evocative I was intrigued by the mystery, seduced by the characters and caught up in page after page of well written family drama.Do you like 1 Books2 Mysteries3 Family dramasIf you said yes to those, then I really can t see any reason you wouldn t love this book People were right when they said it s a book for people who love books It is A love of literature and words is enthused in every page of this novel I find myself believing that had I not already been a bibliophile, an encounter with this book would be enough to have me drooling over the endless possibilities and magic that lie within stories I must confess that I am almost always a story person first, a character person at a close second and a language word person last This book delivered on all three, but it was the latter that most amazed me Setterfield completely seduces you with words I read passages over and over again because I loved the language and style so muchBooks are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at oncebanal andessential than that When I was a child, books were everything And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilledThe story is about a biographer called Margaret Lea who very suddenly and unexpectedly receives a hand written letter from the popular and critically acclaimed novelist Vida Winters Ms Winters wants Margaret to recount her life story, she wants to finally stop telling fictional stories and reveal the truth of her childhood and all its dark secrets Before accepting, Margaret reads and falls in love with one of the author s books called Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, but she is surprised to find that it contains only twelve stories where is the thirteenth tale Margaret finds herself unable to refuse the job And as Vida Winters opens upand , both women are forced to confront the demons of their pasts.I, for one, was totally sucked into every aspect of the story The writing had hold of me, the characters made me need to knowabout their lives, the mysteries surrounding Winters youth kept me guessing If it s possible, I think this book made me love books even.Blog Leafmarks Facebook Twitter Instagram Tumblr Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you You leave the previous book with ideas and themes characters even caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you This quote from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield sums up my experience with the book It s been a while since I ve felt truly drawn in to a novel Likely this is the result of my recent tendency toward s Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you You leave the previous book with ideas and themes characters even caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you This quote from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield sums up my experience with the book It s been a while since I ve felt truly drawn in to a novel Likely this is the result of my recent tendency toward selecting less than literary books in an attempt to find some distraction without devoting much real focus to the reading I ll admit that it took me a bit to get hooked, but, a few chapters in, I found myself thinking about the novel and the developing plot at times when I was unable to be reading.There is no reference to time in the setting of The Thirteenth Tale From the context clues, I d guess that it s set in the 1970s It s a world where people still write letters and where if phone lines go down in a storm, country homes are cut off from contact with civilization Manuscripts are written by hand The feel of the book is reminiscent of Jane Eyre, a novel that itself is woven throughout the plot.The story begins when Margaret Lea, a little published biographer, is summoned by Vida Winter, famous novelist Ms Winter is finally ready to tell her true life story, rather than another of the many versions she s given of her life over the years As she does so, Margaret and the reader are drawn into the mystery that shrouds Ms Winter Through the stories she tells Margaret as well as the accounts of Margaret s own investigations, we eventually learn the truth both about Ms Winter and the legendary Thirteenth Tale, a story that was left out of an early collection written by Ms Winter There are enough twists to keep the story interesting and unpredictable.The book jacket describes The Thirteenth Tale by stating, It is a tale of Gothic strangeness, featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden, and a devastating fire In reality, it s that and muchThis book lead me to wonder about identity, love, and the meaning of family I have a feeling these characters will indeed be in the fiber of my clothes for quite some time