The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

Cover ImageFinished 3-3-08, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2006

  This is a beautifully written mystery, family study, and ghost story all wrapped up in one.  Margaret, lonely employee of her father’s bookstore and Vida, ailing best-selling author, come together for a wonderful tale that envelopes you completely.   Vida needs someone to tell her life story before she dies and she chooses Margaret, who has never before written a biography about a living person.  The friendship between the two women grows as Vida’s story is told. 

Vida draws us into a world of incest, neglect, insanity, love, murder, and jealousy.  Even as you are drawn in there is uncertainty about the truth which encourages you to keep turning the pages as fast as you can so that you can know what is real.  As Vida tells her story, we also are involved in Margaret’s life of loneliness and secrets.  The stories intertwine perfectly to make this a compelling novel.

At last the truth is revealed and all is right with the world.  My only small (very small) complaint was that the end seemed to wrap up a bit easily.  This book has been compared to Jane Eyre and Rebecca and I don’t disagree.  They feel similar although at its heart this is not a love story.  I recommend this book to anyone who loves books, words, and fans of Jane Eyre and Rebecca.