Title: The Thirteenth Tale

Author: Diane Setterfield

Publication Date: 2006, 2007

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Price: $15.00

Number of Pages: 406

Awards: Alex Award

Genre/Subgenre: Mystery, historical fiction


Popularity: 3/5

Quality: 4/5

Reader’s Annotation: 

A mysterious, dying author wishes to reveal her own story before it is too late.


Biographer Margaret Lea receives the opportunity of a lifetime – an invitation to write the biography of mysterious fairy tale author Vida Winters, who is dying and wants to set the record straight about her cloudy past. Intrigued, Margaret goes to stay with Ms. Winters and listens to her story, which takes the form of a fairy tale. Ms. Winters tells her of the Angelfield family, from the incestuously involved brother and sister Isabelle and Charlie to the wild twins Emmaline and Adeline, who are orphaned and raised by servants. As Ms. Winters tells the story of the Angelfield family, Margaret puts the pieces together and realizes that Ms. Winters is telling the story of her own family, but will she have enough time with Ms. Winters to uncover the whole truth?


The Thirteenth Tale is suspenseful, captivating, and the perfect recommendation for readers who enjoy mysteries, ghost stories, and fairy tales.  While several of the main characters are teenagers and the novel won an Alex Award, some of the themes are quite mature and would be best suited for older teens.

Why I Chose the Book:

I enjoy fairy tales and books about writers, so The Thirteenth Tale, which is about mysterious fairy tale author Vida Winters, immediately drew my attention.


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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Observations by Jane Harris

Book Talk Ideas

Host a screening of the 2013 television adaptation of The Thirteenth Tale. After watching, discuss the adaptation and compare it and contrast it with the novel.

Discussion Questions

1. Like Vida Winters, Margaret Lea has her own mysterious family past. How does this shape Margaret, and do you think this is why she is drawn to Vida Winters and her story?

2. Based on her past, why do you think Vida Winters makes a career of writing fairy tales? In what ways does her life story correspond to or subvert traditional fairy tales?


Setterfield, D (2006). The Thirteenth Tale. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2014). Goodreads. Retrieved from:


The Thirteenth Tale (TV Movie 2013) (2014). IMDB. Retrieved from: