Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author's tale of gothic strangeness -- featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
Diane Setterfield was born in Reading and grew up in Theale (both in Berkshire, in the South of England), she attended Theale Green School, and then Bristol University where she studied French Literature. She has taught in various universities in England and France, where she lived for several years. The Thirteenth Tale is her first novel; her previous publications have been academic works about 19th and 20th century French literature, in particular the works of André Gide. Setterfield left academia in the late '90s, she enjoyed teaching but hated university politics and after five years was still working to pay off the loan she had taken out to fund her PhD. "I gave up my job to write before I knew what I wanted to write about," she says. "It might seem bold or brave, but really it comes down to how much you want to do something. If you want to do something so badly, then you have to take a bold decision."