Review – The Thirteenth Tale

Cover of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane SetterfieldThe Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale is certainly an absorbing story in one way — and I prefer it to Bellman & Black, as people told me I probably would — but now I’m finished I’m left feeling a little bit cheated. The mysteries shook out more or less as I expected; the creepy gothic air never quite worked for me, because it’s very much a homage to books which are rather a lot better; the hints of supernatural stuff and ghosts never convinced me… And so on. I could see what it was trying to do, and if I tried hard enough, I could bury myself in it, but it never quite swept me away.

That said, I read it in more or less two massive chunks, and it certainly keeps the pages turning despite the slow pace to it. The stuff that’s obviously meant to appeal to bookworms, that sensation of reading something so bright and fresh and alive as Vida Winter’s work is supposed to be, she captures something of that enchantment, I think. I actually smiled a bit at the narrator’s stuff surrounding reading — yep, I’ve sat up with a book so long it accidentally got round to morning again, without even realising, and was stupid and clumsy the next day with sleepiness; yep, when I’ve been reading intensely all day, somehow I’m just not hungry, like the words have filled me up.

There’s very little more insipid than the narrator’s character, though. I’ve forgotten her name. I remember her twin’s name, but not hers. Set against her, maybe Vida Winter’s story can’t help but be fascinating.

Rating: 3/5

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4 thoughts on “Review – The Thirteenth Tale

  1. Sorry it didn’t Wow you the way it has others. I have yet to finish reading her latest (which took her forever to write) but did read The Thirteenth Tale when it was first released and fell for it…hard! It remains one of my favorite contemporary gothic reads. I must have caught it at just the right time, but everything worked well for me and I got caught up in the atmosphere of the book.

  2. Great review. Sorry this wasn’t an amazing read. I’ve heard a lot about it and have considered reading it for so long, but just never ended up getting to it. I’m still undecided about this one, it sounds okay but not like it’s a read I’m going to love.

    • It’s quite absorbing while you read it, I think, and perhaps those who go in for really gothic fiction more than I do would love it, but it’s not sticking with me. Nor did the other book by this author, alas.

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