“Dr. Clifton came. He listened to my heart and asked me lots of questions. ‘Insomnia? Irregular sleep? Nightmares?’
I nodded three times.
‘I thought so.’
He took a thermometer and instructed me to place it under my tongue, then rose and strode to the window. With his back to me, he asked, ‘And what do you read?’
With the thermometer in my mouth I could not reply.
‘Wuthering Heights – you’ve read that?’
‘And Jane Eyre?’
‘Sense and Sensibility?’
He turned and look gravely at me. ‘And I suppose you’ve read these books more than once?’
I nodded and he frowned.
‘Read and reread? Many times?’
Once more I nodded, and his frown deepened.
It turns out that Margaret Lea, the narrator of Diane Setterfield’s spellbinding novel The Thirteenth Tale is suffering from “an ailment that afflicts ladies of romantic imagination.” This is a novel for readers of a like-minded temperament. Margaret is a biographer by vocation who is commissioned by the mysterious and compelling Vida Winter. Ms. Winter is a world-renowned novelist and storyteller with a deeply mysterious past. She is also gravely ill and wants to finally tell her true story before it’s too late. Over the course of the novel, we learn of Margaret’s past as well as the dark secrets hidden in Vida Winter’s memories.
I listened to this book on my morning walk, and it is an excellent audio book. Two readers take on the two different narrative voices; both readers were excellent. This book is most reminiscent of Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It was a deliciously guilty pleasure—gothic, romantic, mysterious, and deeply satisfying.