Perhaps you went through a British lit phase like I once did, where you read all things Bronte, Dickens, and Austen. The Thirteenth Tale is a marvelous return to the Bronte-type books, with vast estates on the moors complete with twisted passages, secrets , and ghosts. It is the life story of Vida Winter, England's most famous living author, at the end of her life--and it is the first time she's told this version (the truth) to anyone. It is told to Margaret Lea, whose own life is twisted in on itself because of a secret she discovered as a child, and it is large, and complex, and wonderfully gothic. The narrators do a terrific job of creating these two women's voices and characters, and give a beautifully nuanced reading.
I really WANTED to like this book, but found that it left a lot to be desired--the faked accents, some flubbed Austen references, and a plot device that could have been fun but was over-thought and over-wrought left me mostly entertained, but largely disappointed.
Our family read the book last year when it came out, and it appealed to both my 5 year old son and 7 year old daughter. The book is VERY visual, however, with nearly 1/4 of the pages being full (and very detailed) black and white illustrations that evoke the silent film era that the book refers to. The illustrations actually move the plot of the book forward, so I was skeptical about the ability of an audiobook to do justice to the book. They solve the dilemma of several pages of wordless pictures by resorting to old-style radio sound effects, which work fairly well, and also call to mind days gone by.
The book made a car trip go by quickly for everyone, and the kids wanted to start it over again. I'd recommend the story highly, but strongly suggest that you read the book as well in order to really experience Hugo's adventure.
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