Instant #1 New York Times bestseller
“Readers will feel the magnetic pull of this paean to words, books and the magical power of story.”—People
“Eerie and fascinating.”—USA TODAY
Sometimes, when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny.
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Truth and lies intersect in strange and beautiful ways in this brilliant novel by Diane Setterfield. Vida Winter, one of England’s most beloved authors, has made a career out of teasing interviewers with elaborate fabrications about her past. But on her deathbed, Vida summons a young bibliophile-turned-biographer to her home to reveal the haunting, disturbing truth. A 21st-century Gothic ghost story that would do the Brontë sisters proud, The Thirteenth Tale also explores why readers become so fascinated with authors’ lives—and how our own lives drive our infatuation with words.
Former academic Setterfield pays tribute in her debut to Bront and du Maurier heroines: a plain girl gets wrapped up in a dark, haunted ruin of a house, which guards family secrets that are not hers and that she must discover at her peril. Margaret Lea, a London bookseller's daughter, has written an obscure biography that suggests deep understanding of siblings. She is contacted by renowned aging author Vida Winter, who finally wishes to tell her own, long-hidden, life story. Margaret travels to Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to verify the old woman's tale of a governess, a ghost and more than one abandoned baby. With the aid of colorful Aurelius Love, Margaret puzzles out generations of Angelfield: destructive Uncle Charlie; his elusive sister, Isabelle; their unhappy parents; Isabelle's twin daughters, Adeline and Emmeline; and the children's caretakers. Contending with ghosts and with a (mostly) scary bunch of living people, Setterfield's sensible heroine is, like Jane Eyre, full of repressed feeling and is unprepared for both heartache and romance. And like Jane, she's a real reader and makes a terrific narrator. That's where the comparisons end, but Setterfield, who lives in Yorkshire, offers graceful storytelling that has its own pleasures.
Another enjoyable Setterfield read!
This well crafted story engaged me from the beginning with great character development and an intriguing plot.