The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is, in the end, a ghost story, but not the kind I expected. Vida Winter, “the world’s most famous living author,” is ill. Though she’s always resisted biographers in the past, she has summoned the daughter of a bookseller, Margaret Lea, to write her story. As Margaret listens, the secrets of Vida Winter’s life (including a ruined estate, a mysterious fire, questionable parentage, and twins – with a little Jane Eyre thrown in for good measure) unfold, the story twists and turns. Meanwhile, Margaret, dealing with her own ghosts, is not completely convinced that Miss Winter is telling the truth, so she’s doing a little detective work of her own. At Miss Winter’s insistence, the story is told chronologically, and Margaret’s questions (and ours) must wait until the proper time to be answered. Answered they are, though, and the book makes for a very satisfying read, even for someone who (like me) doesn’t read a lot of gothic novels. It’s a book best read as quickly as possible, in great big gulps, and is the perfect book to read on a cold day with a cup of your hot beverage of choice (be careful not to gulp the coffee). I give it the thumbs up.

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