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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (final thoughts)

February 16, 2010

Mysterious best-selling author Vida Winter has never been upfront about her past. Instead she approaches each meeting with a reporter as an opportunity to use up scraps of stories that never quite fit into her novels. Now that her life is drawing to a close, she feels compelled to tell the truth and has chosen unassuming, unknown novice biographer Margaret Lea to tell her story to.

The book is narrated by Margaret and it starts off with her story. I was a bit worried at the beginning of the book, because for the first 50 or so pages I just couldn’t get into the story. It felt like Margaret was trying too hard to be mysterious and haunting. However, when Vida Winter began her story I was sucked right in. Her story really is mysterious and haunting. The atmosphere Setterfield created in the telling of Miss Winter’s story was fantastic. And, during the entire book I couldn’t help but wonder if Winter really was telling the truth this time.

The only parts of the book where Setterfield’s hold on me wavered were when Margaret lost focus of Vida Winter’s story and dwelt on her own. Fortunately, since Miss Winter’s story takes over Margaret’s life, those instances were few and far between. I finished the book late one night, and for the rest of the night and the next day I was turning over facts and twists and turns in my mind, just trying to make sense of it all. A book that keeps you thinking about it for a while after you’ve turned the last page is definitely a keeper. I may have to buy my own copy so I can reread it and try to pick up on the hints that Setterfield dropped throughout the story.

My rating: 8.5/10

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2010 9:59 pm

    I’m reading this one for the Bronte Challenge. Good to know it’s worth the read! Great review!

  2. February 17, 2010 1:08 am

    I just found your blog and am adding you to my RSS feed! This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while. A friend gave it to me some time back. I haven’t gotten around to it and wasn’t that interested, but your review has me intrigued! I might just have to give it a read! Thanks!

  3. justbookreading permalink
    February 17, 2010 4:24 am

    Oddly, I posted a review of this book today too. :-) I enjoyed it and agree that it’s a keeper. My copy come from the library and I’m considering purchasing my own too.

  4. February 17, 2010 5:37 am

    I wasn’t crazy about this book the first time I read it, but I think I still own it. I should give it another try – I read it the first time under circumstances that were not conducive to loving it. I love a Gothic novel usually!

  5. February 17, 2010 7:34 am

    I really enjoyed this book.

    I posted a new essay on Sense and Sensibility about what it means for a woman to give a man a lock of hair.

  6. stacybuckeye permalink
    February 17, 2010 7:41 am

    I liked this one too. It goes out of its way to appeal to us book lovers :)

  7. February 17, 2010 5:24 pm

    Thanks for the great review! For some reason I’ve been reluctant to pick up this book, but from your review it sounds like its definitely worth a read!

  8. She permalink
    February 17, 2010 9:06 pm

    Such a good one! I want to reread it again as well. I feel like there is so much to pick up on with Vida’s story.

  9. February 18, 2010 3:00 am

    I read this book and love the Gothic aspects and the love of reading, and Wuthering Heights that appears through the book.

    I just did not like Margaret though. She kind of seemed a bit too whiny and somehow spoilt my pleasure in the book quite a bit

  10. February 18, 2010 12:39 pm

    probably in my top 5 books – I loved this one and keep saying I’m going to read it again. We read it in our book club and as we were discussing it we realized that some of us thought something different had happened than the rest! What a fabulous book! And I do love books about others who love books!

  11. February 19, 2010 8:01 am

    Someday I’ll get to read this book. It’s already on my bookshelf. I have an award for you at The Crowded Leaf.

  12. February 19, 2010 2:00 pm

    There was something very atmospheric and addicting about this once you get into it, wasn’t there?

  13. February 24, 2010 4:17 pm

    I liked this book as well when I read it; great review.

  14. May 2, 2010 8:24 am

    Wow, this book has such an effect on the reader?? :) The Thirteenth Tale has been on my wishlist for a while actually. I can’t wait to get a copy and read it. It’s deemed as a book about books? That’s what I like.

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