“The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield

Margaret Lea lives in a world of books. Working in and living above her fathers antiquarian bookshop, her day to day life is surrounded by them, on top of which she writes biographical works about authors. Author Vida Winter summons Margaret to engage her to write her biography, and in her unique way begins by telling Margaret the history of the March family and their home, Angelfield House. As the story goes on, Margaret realises there is a mystery to solve, which holds similarities with her own, unresolved past.

The opening chapters of this book held such promise (how can an avid reader not be drawn in by the description of someone who lives in a bookshop!), but as the story began to unfold, I became disenchanted as I felt it was laden with cliché and melodramatic. There were parts of the story I thought were completely predictable, while the twists I didn’t see coming seemed to be almost shoe-horned in as if to prove that the author could be unpredictable. I also felt the tone of nostalgia throughout the book made the story slightly cloying.

Having said all that, it’s an easy read and the plot does run along at a spritely pace, keeping you turning the pages. I liked the way Vida told her story to Margaret, and the description of how Margaret chose to record the sessions. Most of the loose ends are tied up neatly at the end of the book, and left with the promise of what is to come in Margaret’s own life.

I know others whose opinion I respect have loved this book, however, it was just not my cup of tea. I did finish it, but I felt it was a bit of a chore at times, but I did want to see how the author resolved the story.


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