I sadly finished The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield last night. Sadly, because I was so enjoying this book, and found myself completely sucked into the story and characters from the first chapter and I didn’t want it to end, but also sadly because the ending didn’t quite live up to the rest of the book.
The story begins in an antiquarian bookstore, where Margaret Lea works with her father. An amateur biographer, and confirmed bibliophile, she receives an odd letter requesting that she write the biography of Vida Winter, a world renowned novelist who has never told the true story of her life. Like many 19th century Gothic novels, much of the story takes place in rambling country manor houses, each with their fair share of ghosts, and if that fact doesn’t convince you of it’s Gothic status, the author repeatedly mentions Jane Eyre. I got the Gothic connection after the first eleven mentions of Charlotte Bronte’s heroine, thanks. I did love the timeless feel of the novel, and was never sure exactly when it took place. The characters won me over quickly, and the interweaving of the past and present was so effectively done. My only problem with the story (other than the repeated mentions of Jane Eyre) was the last chapters, when everything is hurriedly and neatly resolved. It all came together too quickly, I thought, as if the author simply wanted to hurry up and finish the story. I also didn’t feel as if all the ghost stories were completely explained.
If you like a good, Gothic mystery, I’d still recommend The Thirteenth Tale, it’s well-written and entertaining, and a good book for a rainy day, a cup of Mango Chamomile tea, and some oatmeal toffee cookies.
I’m going to call it 3.5 out of 5 stars, and I’m definitely looking forward to more from Ms. Setterfield. Other Gothic novels you might enjoy: anything by Wilkie Collins, such as The Woman in White, The Dead Secret or The Moonstone, Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca is also good. Does anyone have any other suggestions? I have a weakness for Victorian mysteries, I have to admit :o)