Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale was our Mystery Book Club selection for October and Halloween.
Isn't this a great cover? I loved the book itself. The pages are heavy, aged looking and rough cut, like an old book. Just like the books in the cover.


Here is what it is about:

"Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.

Late one night while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.

As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story.

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets... and the ghosts that haunt them still."

I really liked this book. But then, my favorite books way back were gothic mysteries. 

It is a mystery set in fairly modern times. 20th century anyhow, but we don't really know the year. Old spooky house, ghostly sightings, mysterious people. The back story of the family history is "icky" but sets the tone. The book reminded me of Wuthering Heights in that it is dark; the weather is bad, the house is cold, the characters are dark and melancholy, some downright disturbed.
We had a pretty lively discussion at the book club about it. Some people liked it and read it pretty quickly like I did. Some people didn't like it. Those that liked it seemed that they like gothic type mysteries set in the English countryside. Some, like me, thought the ending was neat and tidy and all wrapped up, until one person suggested that maybe the main character wasn't who we all thought she was. Hmmm. So we tousled with that for awhile too.
The book has been made into a movie in Britain starring Vanessa Redgrave. You can purchase the movie on Amazon but it is not available to watch on Amazon, Netflix etc. here.
I thought the author was interesting too. This is her first published book. She has one other, stand alone. She studied French literature and taught English in France. She left her career in teaching to write.
I found it to be a page turner and really enjoyed it.


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