The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
“How long did I sit on the stairs after reading the letter? I don’t know. For I was spellbound. There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner.”
Margaret Lea is a biographer who has lived in an apartment above an antiquarian bookstore her entire life. She is contacted by a famous novelist, Vida Winter, and asked to recount her life story which has been a mystery for years. Lea takes the job and finds herself captivated by the characters and intense tale that Vida Winter weaves for her. Throughout listening to the old woman talk, Lea discovers the power of family, love, and storytelling.
Honestly, I really liked this book. To start off with, the hardcover version is beautiful with and without the dust jacket. It looks like an old book with wear to the pages. Having it physically in my hands definitely added to the experience.
Vida Winters, although not the protagonist, seemed like the most well-developed character in this novel. She was interesting, mysterious, but easy to understand by the final chapter. Margaret Lea, on the other hand, was still a confusing personality to me at the end of the novel. I wish Setterfield had taken a bit more time to develop her.
The plot was slow to start off with but absolutely gripping by a third of the way into the book. The novel uses the ever-captivating topics of twins, death, and reading to draw the audience in. Setterfield intertwines these topics very well. I read the last half of the book almost in one sitting.
My favorite part of this novel was the appreciation it showed for writing and reading. The main character is a writer, and her love for the written word is very prevalent. Like anyone who enjoys reading, this appreciation for writing resonated deeply inside of me.
Overall, this was a great book to start off my winter break. It was a great length and never seemed to bore me. The writing style and plot were excellent and the character development was good, but not superb. The Thirteenth Tale is a nice addition to my bookshelf and I’m very glad I bought the physical copy, rather than the eBook.