The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield
An homage to classic gothic literature, Setterfield’s first published work weaves a delightfully suspenseful tale that examines the beauty in both truth and lies.
Vida Winter is a beloved, but fiercely reclusive, English novelist. For years she has been plagued by one phrase, “Tell me the truth.” But how do you tell the truth when the world is in love with stories? Endless streams of journalists have sought to uncover the “real” Vida Winter through interviews and--increasingly over the decades--trickery, but Winter’s notorious mystique remains. Setterfield’s novel opens as the protagonist, Margaret Lea, receives an invitation from Winter to visit her home on the English moors. What’s more, she is granting Lea an interview. Winter, suffering from a terminal illness, has decided to record her life story before it is too late. Lea, an amateur writer passing time as a clerk in her father’s rare book store, is surprised and confused at the once in a lifetime proposition, as she has never read a single book by Vida Winter nor been frequently published as an author herself. As Lea decides whether to take on such a task, she reads and becomes entranced by Winter’s novel, Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. The mysteries quickly pile up for the pragmatic Lea, as she discovers this title is a rare find, having been pulled from circulation years ago. The twist? Winter’s book only contains twelve stories. Short on action and long on suspense, Setterfield’s novel beautifully encapsulates a world of secrets, lies, and the profound truths they keep hidden. Readers may be put off by the slow build of information, but will be rewarded through carefully crafted storytelling as the novel unfolds.
Hauntingly and thoughtfully written, fans of gothic literature, such as Henry James’ Turn of the Screw will find success with Setterfield’s debut novel. Those seeking quick thrills and action may wish to look elsewhere, as they will be left wanting here.
Pub. date: Oct. 9, 2007
Page Count: 432pp
Publisher: Washington Square Press