Ok, it is Friday the 13th! What better day to talk about a book called The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield?
Sometimes you hear about a book and think, I need to read that. Then, looking at a discussion you find a lot of people hated the book, so it goes to the back burner for a while. Then, a while later, you run across it again and are again intrigued by the book synopsis. Thirteenth Tale is such a book. There are readers that were bored to the point of wall-banging the book. Others were captivated a few pages in. My curiosity finally got the better of me and I ordered this book and read it. I am so glad I did, as this one is a keeper.
A reclusive author, Vida Winter, decides to tell her true-life story to an unknown writer after decades of making up stories about herself. She is haunted by a request to ‘tell the truth’, along with some disturbing memories. She tells her story to Margaret Lea who has her own pain connected with a family secret. This secret is similar to the secret Ms. Winter has to reveal and impacts Margaret in a way she doesn’t expect, impacting her decision to do the biography. The story unfolds slowly, but builds on itself becoming more complex as it progresses. It completely drew me in as it went forward, making the book harder and harder to put down. The present day is woven into the tale as Margaret tries to verify some of the details, as when she finds the original house where Ms. Winter lived. There are several twists and turns, and you won’t see them coming. I am pretty good at figuring out how plots will progress, but this one surprised me more than once. Just when you think you know, there is something more that changes everything.
Books play an important role in this novel, always a delightful discovery. The book is written from the point of view of Margaret, who is the daughter of a rare bookseller. Gardens and architecture provide interesting backdrops for the before and after aspects of the story.
I have loaned my copy to several friends, but only one has stuck it out to the end. It is sad, because this book really takes off about 3/4 of the way through. I recommend The Thirteenth Tale. I found the story captivating, and will read it again.