The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family – fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates...

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past – and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has the house been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret's own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield's spell?

Genre: Fiction, Gothic, Mystery, Ghost Story
Year: 2006
Publisher: Orion
Rating: 4/5

Margaret Lea lives above the antiquarian bookstore she operates with her father.  A lover of the classics, Margaret spends her days reading, and compiling biographies on long dead writers. 

One day she is unexpectedly contacted by Vida Winter. Miss Winter is a popular contemporary novelist, who is known for being mysterious and reclusive. For some unknown reason she wants Margaret to write her life story. At first, Margaret hesitates. She has never dealt with a living subject before, nor has she read any of Miss Winter's work. 

Being a born researcher, Margaret picks up a copy of one of Miss Winter's book which her father happens to have in the bookstore. Surprisingly, she finds herself hooked. So she agrees to meet with Miss Winter and discuss the possibility of working together. 

Soon she finds herself engrossed in a story like no other. A story filled with eccentric characters, ghosts, mystery and madness. 

Is Miss Winter telling the truth about her origins? Is she finally allowing the world in on the secrets of her childhood? Or is this just another one of her stories? 

"All children mythologise their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth: it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story. " 

My thoughts.... 

This book has been called "a book for book lovers" and I can see why... not only is much of this book set in libraries, and not only are the characters the ultimate book lovers, but this book is filled with literary references. It was fun discovering them. It was also warming to read a novel that talks about the love of books and reading with such passion. This was something I felt I could connect with.

"Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes–characters even–caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you."

Being a big fan of a good mystery, and lover of gothic and ghost stories, I found this novel a real treat to read. And to make it even better, I loved the way this book was written. Setterfield writes her prose in a way which is poetic. Each page is just dripping with the beauty of language. A little melodramatic of me yes, but I loved every minute of the writing in this novel. It is one of those novels that is an absolute pleasure to read. I think setterfield says it best herself:

"There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic." 

This novel explores how people can be haunted by the ghosts of the past, and how these ghosts can have an impact on their lives. Some things just can not be forgotten, although sometimes we need to learn to let go and just live!

I must admit that I felt parts of this story were a little far fetched. Often, the joy of a good story is that it isn't realistic but in this case, I just couldn't reconcile some parts of this story with others. Despite that, I still loved this novel. 

I'd recommend this novel to anyone who loves gothic literature, ghost stories and books about books!

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