- Fritzi Newton
Do you thrive on books that keep you guessing to the last page? Does a dark novel set your heart racing with anticipation? Then let me recommend The Thirteenth Tale. But to achieve the optimal reading experience, schedule time on a day when the sky is an ominous shade of gray, an angry wind howls outside your window and your electricity flickers haphazardly. The moment is then prime to open your copy of Diane Setterfield’s debut offering.
Margaret Lea lives a solitary, sheltered life working in her father’s bookstore. Her greatest pleasure lies in surrounding herself with books, both rare and commonplace. She also dabbles in compiling short biographies of obscure but deceased individuals. Out of the blue, Margaret receives a mysterious letter from Vida Winter, one of England’s most cherished writers. Her request is that Margaret document her life story.
Unfamiliar with Winter’s novels, Margaret tentatively reads one title, only to find she’s unable to stop until completing the author’s entire collection of works. She agrees to visit Winter. The elderly writer has apparently fabricated exotic tales about herself over the years, but with only a short time to live, she now wants the truth told.
Margaret is skeptical. Given Vida’s preoccupation with manipulation, the young woman demands that the author supply her with several verifiable facts. If those facts prove accurate (which they subsequently do), then Margaret will accept the job (which she subsequently does).
As she settles into the task, Margaret is amazed to learn that Vida’s life is far more fantastic than any previous fictitious accounts. She grows fond of the haughty, controlling woman who has survived unimaginable hardships. But perhaps even more importantly, Margaret finds herself willing to confront her own secret sorrow—an anguish which has prevented her over the years from pursuing a normal existence.
Adult fairy ales are alive and well. If you doubt me, just pick up a copy of The Thirteenth Tale.