Very few authors manage to fracture the English literature world with a powerful debut novel, and I consider Diane Setterfield as one of those few. The Thirteenth Tale combines the elements of gothic stories and the arousing voice of ghost tales with a hint of mystery in an exquisite narrative that doesn’t take itself too seriously (which is good). Those who love books that talk about the love of reading books will find something special within the pages of this novel.
The Thirteenth Tale is about the power of stories as much as it’s about the darker side of written fantasy. The narrator, Margaret Lea, is not so much living her life through books as avoiding her life with the use of books, especially since she runs her family bookstore. One day she receives a letter from Vida Winter, a famous novelist, asking her to come to Yorkshire and listen to her story and write her autobiography before she leaves the world of the living. And so begins a ghostly adventure of mystery, sorrow and discovery that consumes Margaret’s life and forces her to actively participate in the story in order to a reach a firm conclusion, and discovers the answers for her many questions.
Obviously, the main characters of this novel are Margaret Lea and Vida Winter, and both of them were brought to life nicely due to the simple and yet intricate writing. The most prominent aspect of the novel is the smart gradual unraveling of this mystery. It’s really hard to put down once you reach a part where you starve to know the next, and there are many parts that challenge you to do so. This is truly a pleasant book to read with extremely satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended.