Vida Winter is a storyteller in every sense of the word. Renowned for her fictitious life stories as she is for her novels, Ms. Winter has become the puzzle every journalist hopes to piece together. No one knows where Ms. Winter came from, there are no records to be found to give any clue, but as Ms. Winter faces her mortality she decides it is time to tell her story. Margaret Lea is the chose recipient of Ms. Winter’s story. Margaret is a quiet, solitary woman. She works for her father in his antique bookstore and occasionally writes biographies of unknown dead people. She has never read one of Ms. Winter’s novels and has never written about someone who is still alive. Why Margaret? It soon becomes apparent that Ms. Winter and Margaret share a similar secret, and despite herself, Margaret becomes enthralled in the horrid and sordid tale that Ms. Winter has to tell.
Reaction: I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts on the book into words. It was complex and dense and gripping. The atmosphere was great. Foggy moors, a secluded estate, a crumbling mansion that turns to ruin. Awesome. Vida Winter’s story was a slowly unraveling mystery that I didn’t figure out despite the hints. It is also a very, very sad tale where pretty much all of the main characters were complete nut jobs, for lack of a more technical term. What I loved the most was the timelessness of the story. The setting could have been now or 20 years ago or 50 years ago, who’s to say and I’m not sure it even matters. What I didn’t like so much was Margaret’s weird visions of her dead twin. I could understand her feeling of loss and the psychological damage of that loss but I didn’t understand the visions or how Margaret believed her twin haunted her. I also didn’t understand how she resolved her twin issue at the end of the novel. Her recovery seemed abrupt to me.
The Thirteenth Tale received two thumbs up from the bookclub and I’m not sure they had the same issues with Margaret that I did.