Feb 1, 2009

[TSS]: The Thirteenth Tale

One of the things I was drawn to when I first saw this book was the beautifully rich cover. Usually, I don't base my reading choices on that critiria, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't factor into it. I had read some reviews from other bloggers and it was apparent that it was a well received book, but when I started reading Diane Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE, I had no idea how much I was going to love reading this story. And what a story it was!

There are two protaganists in this book; Vida Winter, the elderly, most famous novelist in all of England and the amateur biographer she commissions to write her life story, Margaret Lea. The problem for Margaret is that 19 previous biographers had been hired by Ms. Winter to write her life story and they all turned out to be just that - stories. How would Margaret know if she was being told the truth?

Naturally, Margaret is very skeptical of Ms. Winter but reluctantly decides to take the job. She moves into Ms. Winters house and as the days pass she delves into the life of this mysterious woman. She learns some astonishing things about her - and is surprised to find parallels to her own life. She soon finds herself being pulled into the story and the more she investigates, the more questions she has.

One of the most impressive things about this book is the writing. It is amazing. In my opinion, it is hard to believe this is Diane Setterfield's first novel. I was so caught up in her words, I felt like I was there with Margaret trying to figure things out. This book holds a mystery that has many twists and turns and continues to unfold right up until the very end. I was engrossed by the unique and unusual cast of characters that were very well developed. Though the author doesn't smother the reader in descriptive details, she still creates a mental image that is so vivid, you can almost smell the old books of the library, where much of the story takes place. However, the exact year is purposly not revealed, leaving the reader wondering even more. But this is about so much more than a mystery. There's a gothic element that brings a ghostly feel, secrets of a family that seem to never end, and the sadness of truth that make this an incredible read.

I carried this book around with me everywhere I went hoping for a chance to read a page here or a page there. I didn't want to put it down. I read many books, but I consider THE THIRTEENTH TALE a great story. Some people just have natural storytelling talent and Diane Setterfield certainly is one of them. She completely engrosses you on so many levels. I just love this book! My only disappointment is with myself that I waited so long to read it. If you haven't read it, I can't encourage you enough to do so. I promise it will be time well spent.
I will say, however, that I did come across some reviews of this book while snooping around on GoodReads that surprised me. Some reviewers didn't like the book or felt the story was too drawn out. I never felt that way. I was never bored with the story or felt like I was being led around needlessly. To those people, I say 'Were we reading the same book?' I adored this book and wish that every story I read had the imagination, creativity and writing skill as Ms. Diane Setterfield. Many of the negative reviews I read seemed to pick apart certain aspects that were part of the 'make believe' element of the story. I believe, they missed the point. This is one of those books that you simply can't take too seriously. If you've read this book, please leave me a comment and let me know if you liked it or not.

Here are some reviews from other book bloggers you might like to read:
Final Haven
Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria Books
Published: September 12, 2006
Pages: 416
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars: Excellent!


  1. I've read a number of reviews here and there about this book, all good reviews too. I wish I had the time to read it. Sounds wonderful.

  2. I actually was pointed towards this book by the Sunday Salon. I love academic mystery-type books. Many many people I respect love the book. But...I hated it. I found it nearly unreadable. From the other side of the coin I had the same reaction as you-- did we read the same book? I wonder why it's so polarizing.

    My review was here. Fairly snarky, I'm afraid:


    It's always good to hear why other people liked it. But it's funny how tastes differ.

  3. I've come to the opinion that there are some employees of other publishers, etc who just like to post negative reviews of some books - usually popular books. This is a very popular book - has been for quite some time. You wrote a great review. I'm glad you liked it. It's going on my TBR list - I don't know when I'll get to it, but when I do I know I'll remember your thoughts.

  4. And, as the post above me illustrates, sometimes readers just have different tastes for what is a great book. Vanilla/Chocolate, you know? : )

  5. Aspiring Writer - I hope you get the chance to read it. I feel like its a book you must read 'before you die'.

    gautami tripathy - I've heard that from soooo many others too.

    frumiousb - I respect your opinion and I can see how some might think it was too much, but I think I was ready for something different. I normally stick to other genres, but to me this was a breath of fresh air. New and different for me. I'm glad you posted your thoughts and review. Like Mary said, 'some people like vanilla, some like chocolate!' :)

    Mary - I tend to agree with you. Typically I usually don't agree with reviews from the professionsl. They must be looking for something else than what I look for in a good book. I must've been under a rock when this book cmae out tho, I didn't find out about it until last year and the hype was over. I do hope you get the chance to read it. It was a real surprise to me how much I enjoyed it.

  6. Now this sounds like something I would like. Having just finished The Glass of Time, I am looking for another chunky book that I can't put down. I think I'll check this one out. :)

  7. great review, i've been wanting to read this one for a while.
    good to hear you enjoyed it so much. Its always a good thing when a book can capture your attention like that.

  8. Great review, Lisa. I bought the book last year but haven't read it yet. I better get to it soon! I was also drawn by the lovely cover. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and nice blog, by the way. I love discovering new blogs.

  9. What a great review! I'm glad that you enjoyed it. The online book club I'm in, The Well-Read Ladies, will be discussing this book in two weeks. You're welcome to join us!


  10. Great review. I read this a few years ago and enjoyed it so much. I agree with you on the beautiful cover-it definitely caught my attention too.

  11. Good review. I listened to this book last year on audio and loved it. Such an amazing story filled with such wonderful prose.

  12. I am so glad you enjoyed this, Lisa. The cover is quite attractive, isn't it? And what's inside is even better. :-) I loved the author's writing style. It's such a quotable book too--something I don't usually notice.

    Thank you for linking my review!

  13. I loved this book as well. It had a bit of a slow start for me but before I knew it I was drawn in and the story didn't let me go. Great review!

  14. I loved this book too - it was listed as one of my top ten reads for 2008.

    I was beautifully written - I carreied it around everywhere too - just couldn't seem to put it down.

  15. I adored this book, too - in fact, your review makes me want to read it again!

  16. I read this when it first came out and LOVED it!! I am so glad that so many others have now read and loved it too. Everyone seems to look for something different in a book to enjoy, so I love reading all the different opinions... Great review!

  17. Great review. I am adding this to my ever growing list of library borrows.

  18. I would like to read this book too. I heard a lot of good things about it... Would you mind exchanging this book with one that I already read, "The Pilot's Wife" By Anita Shreve??

    Please let me know...

  19. Nice blog...going to look around and follow if I can.

    I LOVED this book. I found your review on Goodreads then saw the link to your blog so headed on over.

    ENJOY your week.


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I haven't been here for so long that I forgot I have visited.

      Hello again...I need to stop back more often.

      Lots of good stuff here.


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