The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is a gothic mystery that reminded me of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which I loved so that’s high praise. This novel has some beautiful prose, I’m not really a prose guy, I don’t need beautiful metaphors on every page, just enough to get be the mind picture, but this book manages to do both beautifully. There’s too many passages that took my breath away for how they were described. The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights both written by sisters which is a theme in the novel. this Novel makes some really cool observations, the two I liked is birth is showing up to a play late, they way we have to catch up to are parents lives and all the history before us; the other I really enjoyed was the twins viewing people by themselves as not whole because they were missing there other half and thus not whole. I really love where the novel went with this observation. I did think this book was going to be more about Vida Winter’s writing which, seems like an after thought at the end, but it is more about her life than writing.
The Plot: Margret Lea is a antique book shop worker at her father’s store, she’s very comfortable reading the classic’s and not the contemporary stuff by Vida Winter said to be the Charles Dickson of our times. It comes as a shock that Vida Winter wants Margret to tell her story. Margret as well a book store clerk has dipped in to writing short biographies on people from literary history, the one that she believes caught her attention was her work on the two twins the Landier brothers. Vida Winter just so happens to be a twin, and wants to tell her story. Margret doing he research has learned that Vida Winter has told a different past with each interview she has ever given, what has changed? The mystery of Vida Winter deals with death, secrets and ghosts, and there is a reason Margret was chosen that will change her life along with Vida Winter’s.
What I Liked: The prose is so good and haunting at times. The mystery once it is revealed is pretty interesting. The twist is really good and will make you want to read the novel again. I loved the character’s of Missus, Hester, John the dig, and Aurelius. Aurelius character arc was told really well and I loved his ending. I loved the gothic aspects story and the ghost moments. The twin theme was really great and how much it is enforced in the novel was very effective, I bet if I reread it I will find even more connections. I also like how the twist is on the surface and if you follow the clues you can solve most of the mystery. Every time it has a piece of Vida Winter’s writing, I loved the small short story that is read and how it fit in with her life.
What I Disliked: There was no dates, I would have liked a little time period to help me visualize. The middle is pretty slow I felt the story was going somewhere but it sure took it’s time getting there, the middle does have a point but you don’t realize the significance of it until the twist, but still the pacing slowed way down. I’m really happy that I read through it but I can understand why other readers might not finish. Margret’s haunting was very confusing for a couple of passages, it makes a little more sense as the novel progresses.
Recommendations: I will recommend this one, too readers that I know can power through a slow paced middle. I have not read Jane Eyre, (I know) but it seems like if you like that story you will like this, this novel really wants to make me check it out. I have read Rebecca and I see a lot of things in common especially the gothic aspects which were my favorite parts, I think that book is better paced but a lot of similarities. I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars. I will read another Diane Setterfield novel, Once Upon A River sounds really interesting.