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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale

Why you should read this book:

A book for book lovers, this novel is a love letter to storytelling. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield moves at a leisurely pace, rich in detail, slow to reveal its secrets. Nonetheless, this book is hard to put down. The narrative is compelling and keeps you guessing, holding you in suspense until you can’t take it anymore. Written in the gothic literary tradition, every spoonful of this book is delicious, you’ll enjoy every mouthful and ask for seconds.

Why you shouldn’t read this book:

  • You prefer something fast-paced
  • Mystery and suspense aren’t your taste
  • The gothic tradition bores you
  • You want something action-packed

What The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is about:

“What succour, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don’t expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.” 

So writes Vida Winter in her letter to Margaret Lea, explaining how she’s given hundreds of interviews, each time creating a new outlandish story of her life and dishing them out as if they were the truth. Now, however, she tells Margaret, she wants to tell the real truth. And she wants to tell it to Margaret. Only Margaret. Margaret, she has decided, is to be her biographer.

As Margaret listens to what Vida insists is the true tale of her life, Margaret is fascinated. Vida’s story features the Angelfield family, which includes the lovely and headstrong Isabelle, the wild twins Adeline and Emmeline, a governess, a ghost, a topiary garden and a disastrous fire. Margaret is taken in by Vida’s stories but doubts whether Vida is telling her the whole truth. With Margaret’s help, Vida is finally able to confront the truth of her life story.

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