When I bought The Thirteenth Tale, it was on a whim. All I knew of it was the title and that it had won a few awards. I didn’t know what it was about until I read the back cover. A book about book lovers has to be great, right?
Blurb taken from Goodreads:
Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long.
Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness—featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.
Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
The first thing that struck me was the beautiful language. Diane Setterfield knows her way around a sentence. I enjoyed the story and the plot kept me turning the pages. The characters were intriguing and there was just enough mystery to hold my attention without pushing me toward frustration.
The omniscience of the narrator was unusual for me, particularly because a mystery is at the center of the story. Having (limited) insight into each of the characters thoughts was disconcerting at times. The setting is obviously historical, but the reader never learns the exact time period. That annoyed me a bit.
The twists at the end were very satisfying, but I felt the story ended before the book did. The narrator didn’t want the reader to wonder what happened to the secondary characters. I found it unnecessary and a bit excessive.
On the whole, The Thirteenth Tale is a very good book and I recommend it to fans of mystery and literary fiction.