The Thirteenth Tale

It seems as though I’ve read more books about people who love books in the last year than ever before. It all started with The Yellow-Lighted Book Shop, segued into John Dunning’s The Bookman series, stopped off in fantasy land with Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, and most recently took a turn on the bestseller list with The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

The Thirteenth Tale is the famously omitted story from author Vida Winter’s collection of short stories. Margaret Lea, book lover and amateur biographer, is invited to hear the true life story of England’s most popular author. When Margaret arrives at Winter’s home, she finds a dying woman with one foot firmly in the past. As Vida’s story unfolds, Margaret finds herself drawn into the darkly strange world of the the Angelfield twins. She is unsure of how much is true and how much is flotsam from Vida’s compost pile of story fragments. As Vida tells her story, so does Margaret, who harbors her own untold story.

Setterfields characters are magnificent. The otherwordly existence of the Angelfield family is at once repulsive and fascinating. There are many strands to this story that wave all over the place throughout, but which are all caught up in a neat knot at the end. I was engrossed in this story from the start and — gasp of surprise — didn’t even peek at the end. Good thing too, because I sure didn’t see the truth in Vida’s story until the very end. All in all, this was one of the most satisfying books I’ve read in awhile.