The Thirteenth Tale.
So I finished The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield late Friday night, and have just not taken the time to write it up until now. My apologies, readers. I went looking for a lighter, quicker read after Cloud Atlas and The Black Book, and though I wasn’t sure this was my ticket, it turned out to be a good pick.
The Thirteenth Tale follows Margaret Lea, a sometimes biographer, as she is asked to take down the life story of Vida Winter, the it writer of the time in England. Vida Winter has never given an honest interview before, so Margaret has her suspicions about what makes this time different, but is eventually captivated by the story.
The book reads as both a book about a love of reading and writing and an homage to gothic novels, such as Jane Eyre (a book mentioned repeatedly) and Wuthering Heights (Vida Winter lives on the moors). Margaret’s father is a bookshop owner, and thus she has been reading all of her life, often as a way to hide from the pain of her twin sister’s death, a fact which her parents have never discussed with her- she discovered accidentally at 10 years old- but which explains her mother’s distance. Vida has written numerous books, namely to hide from having to tell the story of her youth in Angelfield.
Eventually the two women realize they are in a way connected by their family secrets, but Vida’s family wins the battle of sadness and dysfunction, as her story involves madness, incest, murder, lies and family secrets. Not a novel for everyone, but a solid first novel, and one that definitely will pull you through its twists and turns- especially if you read it in the middle of a dark and stormy night.