Book Review – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

(My Rating 2 / 5)

This is a nice book to read in a hilly, chilly, rainy place, which was exactly where I was, on a pre-birthday-long-weekend-getaway last week.

Dianne Setterfield has drawn inspiration from gothic tales to write The Thirteenth Tale and in keeping with the theme, the novel is replete with dilapidated mansions, unusual twins, hidden mysteries, ghosts and old ladies with secrets they’ve been hiding for decades.

Margaret Lea, who has written a few biographies on fairly obscure people, receives a letter from Vida Winter, one of the world’s most famous novelists. In the letter, Winter, who has always been evasive about her past, invites Margaret to document the “truth” about Winter’s life story – the aging author finally wants to reveal it all and for some mysterious reason, she has chosen Margaret Lea.

I got hold of the book because reviews hailed it as being a ‘book about books’. Sure, there are references to several classics throughout the novel, such as The Woman in White, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca and especially Jane Eyre, but somehow I had imagined something quite different. I thought the story would revolve around the writing and creative processes, what an author goes through, the appreciation of literature and things like that. But it wasn’t; it is primarily a mystery novel intertwined with a family saga.

Even at 456 pages however, it was a quick read, with an OK enough story line to keep you interested till the end. But I found parts of the plot a bit too fanciful (not to mention predictable) and Setterfield’s writing style didn’t really appeal to me. I also think she could have done much more in terms of fleshing out her characters.

If you like slightly spooky mysteries revolving around family secrets or if you are looking for a page-turner to read on a holiday or a flight, this might be for you.

4 thoughts on “Book Review – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Add yours

  1. Books about books seem to be very troubling in that they seem not to please everyone but then I suppose what does? I hope I am not too late in wishing you a happy birthday!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, that’s true. I suppose somewhere between the reader’s subjective expectations and the author’s subjective experiences, something is bound to fall through the cracks. Similar to your experience with Howards End is on The Landing? You are only a week late in wishing me, so you are forgiven. Hehe. Thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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