The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

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Diane Setterfield can tell a good story and lets loose in her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale.

The plot is rollicking and the prose is impressive. This novel brings to mind both the nineteenth century greats (particularly Bronte and Dickens) and modern authors like Mark Helprin and William Goldman.

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The Thirteenth Tale is a wonderful novel, a treat for readers and writers alike.

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The Thirteenth Tale

Margaret Lea is a quiet woman and voracious reader, working in her father’s rare book shop. She doesn’t get out much nor does she desire to. Margaret writes well-received but little known biographies about nineteenth century writers that could be described the same way. Therefore Ms. Lea is surprised to receive a letter from Britain’s most beloved and prolific living writer, Vida Winter. In it, the famous writer asks the bookshop worker to write her biography. Vida wants Margaret at Vida’s home as soon as possible to begin work.

Vida Winter has been captivating readers and lying to reporters for sixty years. Every book a literary gem that reimagined the tropes of classic fairy tales; every press tour consisting of a completely different recounting of her background. Vida is tired and she is ready to talk.

Margaret scarce knows whether to believe her, “Vida” and “lying” is as synonymous as “Vida” and “genius” at this point. And, though (or because) Margaret has a secret of her own, the truth is important to her.

Secrets on the Moor

Winters’ most adored book was Thirteen Tales. When publishers realized the collection contained only twelve stories, it was renamed. The whole world has waited for the revelation of Vida’s last tale. Will Margaret be gifted the thirteenth tale in the truth of Vida’s life?

Maybe. But first Vida must unburden herself of Angelfield: its’ strange inhabitants and her neglectful and harrowing upbringing.

Will Margaret be able to unravel both her own and Vida’s secrets? Bear both their truths?

The thirteenth Tale

For the Love of Reading

Before writing full time, Diane Setterfield was working as a teacher in North England. She describes herself as “addicted to reading.” Both these facts can be glimpsed in the writing of The Thirteenth Tale.

This novel is a love letter to the act of reading, the art of writing, and the importance of the imaginary worlds provided by books.

All the classic themes of storytelling and modern literature are present; some followed through, some usurped. What Setterfield does with these tropes matters not, they’re in skilled hands.

In The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield both tells a good story and tells a story well. The action is gripping while the words are beautiful, the dialogue is thought provoking.


I immensely enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale and found it a delight to read.

What books were pure fun to read for you? Let me know in the comments below! Share this review, show The Thirteenth Tale some love.

Check out my last book review here.

Happy reading!




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Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.
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