The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I cannot decide whether I like this book or not. Was it boring, did I hate it? I really don’t know. I liked the gothic atmosphere with old English halls, mysteries and depraved upper-classes, dark secrets…I also liked the quiet heroine Margaret who loves old books and who definitely has some skeletons in her closet. On the other hand, I also felt that the story took ages to get going and that it, when it got going, tried too hard. And I hated Margaret’s obsesseion with her dead twin, a distand mom suffering from migraines and her loveable daddy-o. It felt very constructed and made from some recipe called “how to write real literature”.

But anyway! Our heroine, the quiet and nerdy Margaret is suddenly asked to write the enigmatic writer Vida Winter’s memoirs. Vida Winter is one of the giants of literature, but she has never told anything private about herself. Now time is running out, and Margaret is quickly deciding that she will write the memoirs. So she moves to Miss Winter’s great hall in the country side and soon discovers a lot of layers in Vida Winter’s life-story. It is a life filled with let downs, incetuos relationships, darkness and decadence. Soon Margaret can also see sides of Miss Winter’s life which are like her own life. Margaret has been obsessing about her twin who died at birth, and she discovers that Vida Winter herself is a twin. But what happened to the other twin? That is not something we are told until the very last pages of the story. There are a lot of dysfunctionality, abandonment and traumatic experiences in this book, and that is perhaps what the book is about? The Thirteenth Tale is a debut, and even though I cannot decide if I like it or not, it isn’t a bad book. I am just not sure that it is a book for me.