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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 (5859 )
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4.5 (2643 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Ryan Thom 09-10-09
    Ryan Thom 09-10-09 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
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    94
    1
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    "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.

    26 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gordon Kenmore, WA, USA 03-30-07
    Gordon Kenmore, WA, USA 03-30-07 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    93
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    220
    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.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori 08-08-09
    Lori 08-08-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    191
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    200
    44
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    7
    17
    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
  •  
    KP United States 03-31-13
    KP United States 03-31-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    274
    85
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thirteen is Not So Lucky"

    I came across this book because it was an Audie Award finalist and highly reviewed. While it wasn't bad, I didn't think it was that great either. I thought the narrator was fine, but I just didn't find the story as entertaining as I thought it would be when I read the synopsis ahead of time; this was a clever idea for a story whose execution is only so-so. It was a little slow in parts, but has enough suspense to keep you reading through to the end.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea Houston, TX, USA 12-17-06
    Andrea Houston, TX, USA 12-17-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
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    2
    2
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    1
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    Overall
    "Better Perhaps as Audio Than Print"

    The narration of this is excellent; I was hooked and stayed up too late more than once listening. I enjoyed the story a great deal, too, although in retrospect there are things I could quibble about in it.

    Curiously, I'm not sure I would have been as engrossed by the print version. Anyway, I strongly recommend the download if it sounds at all interesting to you.

    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 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
    ratings
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    11
    2
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    2
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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
  •  
    Martha 05-25-13
    Martha 05-25-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    289
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    36
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    10
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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.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 08-01-10
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 08-01-10 Member Since 2015

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4314
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    "Wonderful story, characters, narrators..."

    It's all there. I read this after the Forgotten Garden. Hard to tell which one I liked best. Read the critic review Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2007. It pretty well sums things up. Few narrators have drawn me into a story like these two narrators. This is story-telling at its very best.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    07-12-10
    07-12-10 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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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
    10
    ratings
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    49
    3
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    0
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    Overall
    "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

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