I have a fairly addictive personality when it comes to most things in life – I can never have just one chocolate biscuit, if I find a pair of jeans that fit (a rarity), I buy them in three colours, when I hear a song I like for the first time, I have it on repeat for at least a week. The same applies to my reading method. If I find a writer I like, I’ll read everything they’ve had published. It started with Enid Blyton, before progressing to Ann M Martin and Francine Pascal (of The Babysitter Club and Sweet Valley High fame respectively) through to Shakespeare, Joanne Harris and Oscar Wilde. And as this type of reader, there is nothing quite so frustrating as finding a book you love, only to discover it’s the sole publication by the author.
Which is precisely how I felt having finished The Thirteenth Tale by former teacher Diane Setterfield.
The novel tells the story of biographer Margaret Lea, daughter of an antiquarian book dealer, who is asked to complete the last wish of gravely ill novelist Vida Winter by penning her biography. Wanting to find out more about a woman whose books she has never read, Margaret finds a copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, which, confusingly, contains just twelve stories. And so, intrigued, she fulfills Vida’s final request and in doing so becomes immersed in a tangled and troubling history, forcing her to confront ghosts of her own.
The Thirteenth Tale is a composition of much that I love about reading – a gothic undertone with Victorian sensibility, themes of identity and a gripping plot. I wait in eager anticipation for another book from this quiet author.