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The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel | [Diane Setterfield]

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel

All children mythologize their birth... So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's beloved collection of stories, long famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale. The enigmatic Winter has always kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she summons a biographer to tell the truth about her extraordinary life: Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth remains an ever-present pain.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: AudioFile magazine called Jill Tanner's performance in The Thirteenth Tale a tour de force...and I couldn't agree more. Both Tanner and Bianca Amato are absolutely marvelous in this haunting debut novel, their voices seamlessly weaving the best story-within-a-story plot that I've ever heard. Reminiscent of Rebecca and Jane Eyre, The Thirteenth Tale is a real thrill for fiction lovers. —Diana Dapito

Publisher's Summary

All children mythologize their birth... So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's beloved collection of stories, long famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale. The enigmatic Winter has always kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she summons a biographer to tell the truth about her extraordinary life: Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth remains an ever-present pain.

Disinterring the life she meant to bury for good, Vida mesmerizes Margaret with the power of her storytelling. Hers is a tale of gothic strangeness, featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, and a devastating fire. Struck by a curious parallel between their stories, Margaret demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them.

The Thirteenth Tale is a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter, and in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.

©2006 Diane Setterfield (P)2007 Simon & Schuster Audio

What the Critics Say

  • Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2007

"Bianca Amato is stunning as Margaret....[her] respect for the power of story and the written word is heard in every utterance. Jill Tanner accomplishes a tour de force as the enigmatic and mysterious Vida. In conversation her voice has the hesitancy and fragility of an elderly woman, but her voice takes on the strength and power of a master storyteller as she weaves her spellbinding life story." (AudioFile)
"Readers will be mesmerized by this story-within-a-story tinged with the eeriness of Rebecca and the willfulness of Jane Eyre. The author skillfully keeps the plot moving by unfurling a new twist in each chapter and leaves no strand untucked at the surprising and satisfying conclusion. A wholly original work told in the vein of all the best gothic classics. Lovers of books about book lovers will be enthralled." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (4709 )
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Performance
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  •  
    08-08-09
    08-08-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    169
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    182
    43
    FOLLOWERS
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    7
    15
    Overall
    "A perfect mid-winter read"

    This was my first download from Audible years ago and I wasn't disappointed even though I am just now getting around to posting this review. This is a book lover's book and I was immediately entranced. The protagonist is a young British girl raised in an antiquarian bookshop with the likes of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights as her primary companions. A mystery unfolds as Britain's leading "popular" author seeks to finally tell her story. There are a couple of dark sub-plots and one graphic scene that bothered me but was essential to the tale. The rest of it was the unfolding of a great mystery, perfect for a mid-winter read (think "the icy wind whistling across the moors") by the fire.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gordon Kenmore, WA, USA 03-30-07
    Gordon Kenmore, WA, USA 03-30-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    74
    ratings
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    216
    16
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    1
    Overall
    "Tedious"

    The story within the story is superb, but the story itself is painfully tedious. The main character is nauseatingly self-obsessed and terminally boring… and the audio narrator doesn’t do her any favors. By the end of the book, I was completely fed up with both of them. The only reason I kept going was because the other “story” and audio narrator were so good. Overall, though, I’m not sure it was worth the pain.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Sunnyside, UT, US 11-28-06
    Amazon Customer Sunnyside, UT, US 11-28-06 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    38
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    1
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    Overall
    "Excellent"

    This is one of those books that starts out a little slow and then pulls you in. The narration (by two narrators) was excellent. This is a book that I have recommended to my friends.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    09-10-09
    09-10-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    94
    1
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    0
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    Overall
    "Painfully slow for me"

    I'm a very patient listener, but I found this story to be painfully slow from start to finish. I finished it, but it took a fair amount of effort on my part to keep myself focused on the story as it progressed.

    I'm actually fairly confused as to why there are so many 'rave' reviews on this book and so many other reviews that seem to reflect my feelings that it was was very hard to enjoy. I guess I'll chalk it up to a person's individual taste. My recommendation is that if you are a reader that likes books with a fair amount of action involved with the main characters, then this novel may not be for you.

    18 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martha Virginia Beach, VA, United States 05-25-13
    Martha Virginia Beach, VA, United States 05-25-13 Member Since 2011

    Avid reader and audiobook listener; I love paranormal lit, mysteries, historical fiction, romance, Brit-crime novels and thrillers.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    210
    ratings
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    154
    36
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    11
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    Performance
    Story
    "The Book That Never Ends"

    I really wanted to like this book and I know I'm going to get a lot of "unhelpful" votes for this review. Please know that it isn't all bad. The story did have some good points. Ms. Setterfield writes wonderfully descriptive passages and her style is lovely in places, but she uses a lot of odd similes ("the words flew out of my mouth like a bird hitting a window"). Huh???
    The first half of the book was good. I was very interested in the story and engaged with the characters (however unlikeable they were), but sometime after the break between sections, I stopped caring about what was happening. The book became tedious. I got fed up when I had to listen to a portion of the twins' story re-told through Hester's diary entries. No doubt they contained important information that the author wanted to convey, but by that time I'd had enough. Where was the editor?! I was constantly checking to see how much time was left, which is never a good sign.

    A number of reviewers have referred to "the twist" and how they thought it was excellent. Well, I was disappointed in it. I thought, "is this _really_ where she's going with the story?" Since I hate spoilers, I'll say no more about that. I will say though that there's only so much self-pity that a reader can tolerate. I'd be interested in hearing a real-life twin's opinion. Not being a twin myself, perhaps I can't relate, but Margaret seems overly attached to (no pun intended), and longing to be reunited with, a twin sister she's never even met. Obsessed is probably a better word because she sees and hears her sister everywhere. Strange.

    A word about the narrators: I can't figure out why there was a need for two. I understand what the director was trying to accomplish, but the book isn't written in a way that's conducive to using two different voices. There are too many places in the narrative where the characters' stories overlap and the narrator who is portraying Vida ends up reading a passage written from Margaret's point of view, and vice versa. It could be confusing if the listener isn't rapt (which admittedly, I was not). Also, I have listened to several books narrated by one of these ladies and, once again, she does a fine job here; however, I had forgotten the promise I made to myself that I would never listen to another audiobook narrated by the other reader. She is not native to England and the way she pronounces certain words is irritating, like nails on a chalkboard, to me. I mean no disrespect. It's just a pet peeve that I wish I could get over.

    I'm sorry to be so critical. If you loved this book, I'm happy you found enjoyment where I could not. If you did not like it, I encourage you to write a review and tell us why not. Books, like any art-form, are subjective. What one person finds merit in, another thinks is rubbish. Such is life.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Talia lafayette hill, PA, USA 07-12-10
    Talia lafayette hill, PA, USA 07-12-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "captivating well written and beautifully narrated"

    This is truly a beautifully written book. The author's descriptions are poetic and visually rich. It is the story of a storyteller, and as such it feels like you are sitting at the foot of a master weaver of tales as they are spinning one just for you.
    The narration was superb. With two actresses reading the parts and hitting the mark perfectly. I can't find any fault with my experience- other than the fact the I was so utterly transported that everyone and everything felt like an interference to the blissful experience of entering the world of this tale. Truly Enchanting.
    For those of you put off by the idea of a ghost tale- don't be. It isn't what you think.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Louisville, CO, USA 11-27-09
    Patti Louisville, CO, USA 11-27-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    49
    3
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    "Wish I Could Write Like This"

    After a mildly interesting prologue, I was completely hooked by the tale that began to unfold. The plot detail and character development was marvelous, and the shared narration of the two main characters was luminous. I was completely captivated and spent hours unable to turn the book off when I should have been doing other things. The ending brought the story to a nice, plausible close. Part ghost story, part mystery, part study of dysfunctional family dynamics, I can't recommend this book highly enough.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wanda S Sauerland Reno 01-14-09
    Wanda S Sauerland Reno 01-14-09 Member Since 2004

    Wanda the artist

    HELPFUL VOTES
    66
    ratings
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    70
    25
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    Overall
    "Wild. Surprise. Good read."

    I didn't know what to expect. For me, this had a different take in storytelling. Do I like it, do I not like it? YEAH, I liked it, very much.

    What I liked most - at first - was that there were two narrators for the two different women. That helps a great deal and I enjoyed that! It made the story alive; glowing, from the beginning to the end.

    So, my judgment is that it was truly a VERY good book. It had me thirsting all along to hear both story lines, that are told simultaneously.

    How is this done, you might ask? Well, one older famous author (woman) finally fesses up to her - so called - true life history and hires a lady autobiographer to do this.

    Yet, at the same time the autobiographer has a story of her own to tell; not as fancy, not as sumptuous of a life story, but still very interesting.

    Did that last bit of review mix you up a bit? Well, it sounds funny, but not really. Just remember, this is a book of two women, each with their own story, and with their own narrator to speak for them. OK. I give up. Just read it, then you will see.

    Again, like George Eliot, there is a richness to the characters that makes one WANT to finish reading the book to the end. (Or, listening to the book). If you enjoy a nice long read, then this one is for you. I do. The longer the better.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tammy Palmer, AK, United States 10-29-08
    Tammy Palmer, AK, United States 10-29-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    80
    ratings
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    95
    32
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    1
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    "Couldn't stop listening!!"

    This has to be one of the best books I've listened to in a LONG time. I've been telling everyone I know to read it or listen to it. Wish she had more books out. The story had me spellbound. I listen on the way to work or on the treadmill. I walked many an extra mile to get this in!!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nisey NY 10-18-08
    Nisey NY 10-18-08 Listener Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    28
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    157
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    "excellent and addictive"

    Great book. You might get put off a little by the first 30 minutes, but stick with it. The "story" within the story will grab you and have you wanting to listen non-stop. great narration too!!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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