The Thirteenth Tale

By Diane Setterfield


This is a story about Margaret Lea, a girl who has her timid life whisked away into the eccentric world of Miss Vida Winter. Miss Winter is a world-famous novelist who has kept her past a secret from the rest of the world, telling varied stories within the realms of her imagination. On the brink of death, Miss Winter finally decides to tell the truth about her life before becoming the great novelist that she is known for. Enlisted as her biographer, young Margaret cautiously accepts the task set in front of her by Miss Winter for she knows of her reputation of masking the truth. Margaret stays with Miss Winter in her home while she listens to the story Miss Winter desires to share: the story of siblings Isabelle and Charlie Angelfield that welds its way into the plots of the twins Adeline and Emmeline. Miss winter takes Margaret on a journey throughout the twisted lives of these people, slowly revealing the big picture. Every story told, Margaret validates the facts to ensure that Miss Winter is not deceiving her by exploring the ruins of the Angelfield House and meticulously checking records of activity that she can find. As Miss Winter's health deteriorates, closer and closer is she to the truth behind her life, being patient not to skip ahead and ruin the ending for Margaret. While staying with her, Margaret fights off demons of her past that continuously haunt her dreams and now, her conscious self as well. The intertwining lives of Margaret and Miss Winter create an epic mystery that will keep the reader on their toes.


Personal Review

The Thirteenth Tale is an exceptional read for those looking for a silent mystery hidden in the ashes of the past. The story begins slowly for there is a lot of backstory before you get to the juicy details but as the plot thickens, your hunger to read more will grow excruciatingly. The ending slightly depressed me for it was sad and unexpected but also left a hint of optimism for Margaret's future. I would definitely recommend this book.

Favorite Passage

"My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consultation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring likeabear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don't expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to com running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie."

-Miss Vida Winter


Setterfield, Diane. "The Thirteenth Tale" Washington Square Press. Copyright 2006.