Well how about a ghost story? The Thirteenth Tale is Diane Setterfield’s gothic novel about two women connected by both books and loss. Book lover and biographer Margaret has been summoned by the elusive and mysterious author Vida Winter to finally write the true biography of this famous woman’s life. Vida’s life is ending, and after years of trying to repress her story she must now confess the truth and her true name, or die with her secrets haunting her. Margaret’s own past haunts her, making her the ideal person to interview the dying author. The story she hears is of Angelfield, a crazed and chaotic estate, and the family that occupied it, especially the twins Emmiline and Adeline, whose entire lives were each other.
The Thirteenth Tale has madness and ghosts, twists and surprises, deaths, loss, love, and regret. This story is remarkably written, and the characters are beautifully drawn and full. This is the perfect book for book lovers, with its illusions to Jane Eyre, Margaret’s home in a book store, and the importance of libraries. Those familiar with Jane Eyre may be able to make more connections than I, but I felt this novel was similar in tone to Du Maurier’s haunting Rebecca. And while I felt something was just not adding up, the twist at the end was truly unexpected! Setterfield does an impressive job of tying up all loose ends, and making even the little things come together flawlessly. The Thirteenth Tale is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
Want to read the next installment of for the Anderson Book Club? We are reading The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin.