Wednesday 6 May 2015

Setterfield, Diane "The Thirteenth Tale"

Setterfield, Diane "The Thirteenth Tale" - 2006

Margaret Lea is a non-fiction author who has written several biographies about dead personalities. Now she gets offered a job to write down the life of one of the most famous but also most secretive authors in England, Vida Winter. She has written twelve stories about her life, all of them more fictitious than any of her own stories which I probably wouldn't want to read. The titles look quite chick lit-ish but we don't have to read the stories in order to read "The Thirteenth Tale".

The author and her biographer find they have something in common, they are both twins and Margaret's mother has not coped well with the loss of the twin sister.

While Margaret listens to Vida's life story, she doesn't just get to know the twins Emmeline and Adeline and everyone else at Angelfield House, she discovers a lot about herself but also about the secret parts Vida doesn't tell. A big surprise waits at the end.

This is quite an interesting story, even though I wouldn't call it great literature. But nice to read.

As both of the protagonists love to read, especially classics, a lot of them are mentioned:
Ainsworth, William Harrison "The Spectre Bride"
Austen, Jane "Emma"
- "Sense & Sensibility"
Braddon, Mary Elizabeth "Lady Audley's Secret"
Brontë, Charlotte "Jane Eyre"
- "Shirley"
- "Villette"
Brontë, Emily "Wuthering Heights"
Collins, Wilkie "The Woman in White"
Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur "The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes"
Dickens, Charles "Hard Times"
Eliot, George "Middlemarch"
James, Henry "The Turn of the Screw"
Kingsley, Charles "The Water Babies"
Stevenson, Robert Louis "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide"
Trollope, Anthony "The Eustace Diamonds"
Walpole, Horace "The Castle of Otranto"

Even though I have not read all of them, I'd rather read the remainder than any of the books "written" by Vida Winter (according to the cover picture):
The Puppet Show
Rules of Affliction
The Birthday Girl
(13) Tales of Change and Desperation
Twice is Forever
Betwixt and Between
Out of the Arc

From the back cover:

"Reclusive author Vida Winter has created several 'biographies' for herself, each one different, but now she wants to tell the truth. When she asks Margaret Lea to write her biography Margaret is reluctant - not least because of the family secrets she herself is guarding so painfully.
Margaret's research takes her to Angelfield House and into Vida's enigmatic past - and what she uncovers sheds a troubling light on her own life."

While visiting Miss Winter in her bedroom, Margaret discovers a picture they talk about. It's called "Dickens' Dream" and was painted by Robert W. Buss.
There is some information on these pages:
Dickens Picture by Robert W. Buss
"Dickens Dream"
Robert Williams Buss 


  1. I enjoyed this one too, as you said, not great literature, but an interesting read. Her follow up, Bellman and Black, was creepy and not nearly as good.

    1. Thanks for the heads up. I doubt I would have read any of her books pretty soon but this way I know I won't have to bother.

      What are you reading at the moment?

      Have a good day,

  2. I'm reading The Sisters: the Mitford Family Saga, rereading I Know This Much to Be True ( and enjoying it even more this time) and This Side of Paradise by F.Scott Fitzgerald and I'm not liking it much, Just finished The Last Samurai by Helen deWitt and loved, loved it.

    1. I absolutely love Wally Lamb (he even has his own link on my blog) and I'm sure I will reread all his books. Will look for "The Last Samurai". Thank you Janet.


  3. I'm really curious to read the book. At least it will be fun thanks to all the classic references. Thanks for listing them

    1. You're welcome, Emma. I love lists, as you probably know in the meantime. LOL