The Thirteenth Tale: Book Review

We read The Thirteenth Tale for book club two months ago (yes, I’m a little behind writing the review. That’s  just me. I’m learning to accept it; you should too), and I think we all agreed we enjoyed it, but we also seemed to agree that it was….quirky.

The story is about an amateur biographer, Margaret Lea, who is hired by a famous author, Vida Winter, to write her life’s story before she passes away. It travels from present time to Vida’s childhood and back throughout the book, chronicling the ins and outs of Ms. Winters’ troubled childhood growing up in a rural English manor house and the family secrets that made her the person she became. For the sake of giving away too many details about the book, I’m going to leave the description at that. If you need more info, feel free to visit Goodreads.

The hardest thing for me about this book was my inability to really grasp the characters in present time. Margaret is troubled, melancholy and has potential to be very interesting, but she seems to fall a bit flat to me. Likewise, Ms. Winter has moments where she becomes very interesting, but just as I was starting to feel a connection to her or some sympathy for her, the author snapped to a different direction, leaving that bit of feeling hanging in the wind.

I have a hard time really describing my feelings about this book. I felt very compelled to continue picking it up, continue devouring the story, but at the same time, I felt continuously disappointed. And sad. It was truly a sad story. Each character either died or lost everything that meant something to them…or both. And at times it was hard to follow exactly what was going on in the story. There were a lot of instances where you simply had to assume that what you thought was happening actually was happening. There wasn’t always confirmation in the following sentences or chapters.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. I’d been wanting to read it, and now I can say that I have. I won’t say it changed my life or gave me a new perspective on the world or on literature or anything like that, but it was entertaining enough to get me from start to finish without giving up.

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