"The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield - Book Review

A Book Lover's Book to Savor and Enjoy

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Thirteenth Tale - Courtesy Atria.

"The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield is a rich story about secrets, ghosts, winter, books, and family. This bestseller is a book lover's book, with much of the action taking place in libraries and book stores, and the line between fact and fiction constantly blurred. It is hard to believe this is Setterfield's debut novel, for she makes the words come to life with such skill that some passages even gave me chills. With a mug of cocoa and "The Thirteenth Tale," contentment isn't far away.

Synopsis of "The Thirteenth Tale"

  • Margaret Lea works in her father's bookstore and is haunted by a loss in her past.
  • One night Margaret is summoned to the home of the most famous author in England to record her autobiography.
  • Vida Winter, the author, tells a layered tale, with stories within stories, keeping Margaret (and readers) curious.


  • The writing is poetic.
  • The characters are unique.
  • The story is interesting, imaginative, and exciting.


  • You will want to drink lots of cocoa while reading (this is only a con for the weight conscious).

"The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield - Book Review

"The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield is reminiscent of classic British novels, like "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre." It has tragedy, romance, moors, and dark, stormy nights. In a way, "The Thirteenth Tale" is a homage to these and all other great works of literature.

The power of books and stories is foremost in the novel, and as the main character gets lost in one story, you'll find yourself lost with her in the story within a story (as well as the story surrounding the character's story).

This is not a realistic book. It isn't meant to be. The aura of fairytale lends power and mystery to the writing. While place is utterly important to the book, time is not. Don't try too hard to figure out when the novel is supposed to take place. It could just as easily have been now as a hundred years ago.

Perhaps all this talk about place, time and story seems roundabout to you. Perhaps you want a synopsis of plot and a straightforward review so that you can decide whether to read this book. Here's what to expect: A good story written by a very good writer about a good story told by a very good writer.

This can be a fun read for a book discussion club, especially for the autumn and winter months. See a list of questions you can explore with your book club for "The Thirteenth Tale." The audiobook version is well-received for those who prefer to listen rather than read.

The book was adapted for a UK TV movie released in December 2013, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman. Setterfield's second novel, "Bellman & Black," (2013) does not garner as good of reviews. Hopefully, her further works will be back up to the standard she set with her first.

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Miller, Erin Collazo. ""The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield - Book Review." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/the-thirteenth-tale-by-diane-setterfield-book-review-362337. Miller, Erin Collazo. (2020, August 25). "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield - Book Review. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-thirteenth-tale-by-diane-setterfield-book-review-362337 Miller, Erin Collazo. ""The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield - Book Review." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-thirteenth-tale-by-diane-setterfield-book-review-362337 (accessed January 26, 2021).