Diana Setterfield's novel "The Thirteenth Tale": book reviews, summary, main characters, film adaptation

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Diana Setterfield's novel "The Thirteenth Tale": book reviews, summary, main characters, film adaptation
Diana Setterfield's novel "The Thirteenth Tale": book reviews, summary, main characters, film adaptation

Video: Diana Setterfield's novel "The Thirteenth Tale": book reviews, summary, main characters, film adaptation

Video: Diana Setterfield's novel "The Thirteenth Tale": book reviews, summary, main characters, film adaptation
Video: The Thirteenth Tale (book review) 2023, September

Diana Setterfield is a British writer whose debut novel was The Thirteenth Tale. Probably, readers are first of all familiar with the film adaptation of the same name. The book, written in the genre of mystical prose and detective story, attracted the attention of numerous literature lovers around the world and took its well-deserved place among the best.

The date of writing "The Thirteenth Tale" is 2002. At the same time, the book was published for the first time in 2006. However, alas, Setterfield did not write a single work as exciting and deep. There are not many books on her creative list yet. But perhaps there is still more to come.

diana book
diana book

What do we know about Diana Setterfield?

The future writer was born in 1964 in Engfield, an old village in Berkshire. After high school she studied English literature at the University of Bristol. She devoted her doctoral dissertation to the autobiographical structures of early creativity. Andre Gide. She taught English at the Institute of France, and later lectured in French at the British University in Lancashire. However, she soon gave up her job to write.

After writing The thirteenth tale in 2002, Diana moved on to her next novel, called "Bellman and Black", which in Russia was available to readers in 2014. It is noteworthy that this work did not cause such a stir. Readers in the reviews claim that it cannot be compared with "The Thirteenth Tale" by Setterfield.

Diana lives with Peter Whittall (he is an accountant by profession) in Oxford.

First attempt was successful

Critics noted that this work is a typical English novel with a unique atmosphere, unhurried narrative and iron logic that comes through in every chapter, every paragraph. Anglo-American critics compare this story with the novels of the famous Bronte sisters. The atmosphere of the book is reminiscent of Wuthering Heights. Meanwhile, some critics called the work completely mediocre and not worthy of attention.

The rights to the novel were purchased from a modest aspiring writer for a huge amount (a million dollars). It has been translated into dozens of languages around the world. And even received the honorary title of "the new Jane Eyre" from the reviewers.

Book reviews

Setterfield's work is admired by many. Readers note the following in the reviews: compare the book "The Thirteenth Tale" with the classics of world literatureinappropriate precisely because it will prevent you from feeling the originality and uniqueness of what was written by our contemporaries.

Many consider the novel "The Thirteenth Tale" to be a unique example of a work in which mysticism, secrets of the past and the terrifying cruelty of people are skillfully intertwined. This is a really serious novel with a deep psychological background, which not everyone can read. Especially impressionable people should be very careful about such reading matter.

From the advantages of the novel, superbly written characters stand out, whose feelings seem to flow smoothly into the reader, well-described scenes with a colorful presentation of the scenes. In general, the work causes utter delight in readers. They note that when reading, they do not want to break away from this lesson. There is a desire to forget about food and sleep and read the book to the end. From about the 50th page, the work draws in even more forcefully.

But not everyone admired the book. There are also negative reviews about the book "The Thirteenth Tale". Some readers claim that Setterfield has no supernatural talent. The book seemed to them insipid, predictable and unjustifiably praised. It is noticeable that the writer followed the style of the Bronte sisters, whose work was mentioned more than once in the text of the story itself. There are faint echoes of Dickens, some say.

Readers note that the work was called "The Thirteenth Tale" for nothing. The translation into Russian of the title of the book does not at all reflect the whole nightmare described in it. Almost all the heroes of the work have mental problems, which does not look like a fairy tale, but rather a horror. It was this fact that impressed especially sensitive viewers.

It is worth noting that many liked the film more than the book, as it is perceived easier and looks at one go. The book is replete with personal experiences of the main character Margaret Lee (who she is, you will understand later), there are numerous descriptions of the life of the inhabitants of Angelfield (the estate in which the events take place). All this, placed on almost 500 pages of text, somewhat complicates the perception of the work. Some argue that reading becomes interesting only towards the end of the book, when events develop more dynamically.

Before describing the plot of the "Thirteenth Tale", it is advisable to list the main characters. Indeed, while reading a brief description, it is easy to get confused by the numerous names.


At the beginning of the book, the writer meets Margaret Lee, whose father, Ivan, is a second-hand book dealer and bookstore owner. Her parents are her only family. Margaret is about 30 years old. In the course of the story, the reader finds out that she had a sister. The girls were Siamese twins, but after the separation operation, one of them did not survive. Katherine Lee is the mother of the main character. Women have difficult relationships, so Margaret rarely visits her father's house.

Vida Winter is a famous writer whose life is coming to an end. She had less than a month to live. The woman is known for never telling a single word of the truth in her interviews. And so she decides to open the storyof her life Margaret.

winter type
winter type

George Angelfield - aristocrat, Isabella's father. His wife Matilda dies after the birth of her youngest daughter. He devotes himself entirely to his beloved daughter Isabella.

Isabella Angelfield is a beauty with an unbalanced psyche. She married Ronald March and had twin girls. At the same time, both are completely different from Ronald, but they inherited the appearance of their uncle Charlie.

Charlie Angelfield is George's eldest son. Isabella's brother. Sadist. Was in a sexual relationship with his sister.

Emmeline and Adeline March are twins, the main characters of "The Thirteenth Tale". As a result of incest and psychological abnormalities of the parents, the girls were born with noticeable mental disabilities.

Esther is the girls' governess, who left the estate under the pressure of circumstances. She had feelings for a local doctor who soon went to America to see her. They got married and have four children.

Aurelius is the illegitimate son of Emmeline and the gardener's assistant Ambros. A good-natured giant and a talented confectioner.

Cop John and Karen are servants at Angelfield Manor. Took care of the girls while their mother was in psychiatric hospitals.

angelfield castle
angelfield castle

"The thirteenth tale" - a summary. Home

The story begins with the reader's introduction to Margaret Lee. A woman who works in a bookstore. She is a biographer by profession. Margaret loves the classics, especially the Bronte sisters and Dickens. One day shediscovers Vida Winter's collection of fairy tales in her father's collection. Her latest novel, The Thirteenth Tale, captivates a woman. However, there are only twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth?..

Soon she gets the opportunity to find out the answers to her questions. Unexpectedly, she receives an invitation to come from Vida Winter. A writer is dying and wants to tell the story of her life to someone who can understand it.

Tragedy of Madness

Vida's story begins at Angelfield Manor. The children of the owner of a huge mansion - Charlie and Isabella - suffer from mental disorders. Charlie is a rapist and a sadist. Isabella, on the other hand, is completely apathetic and allows her brother to do whatever he wants with her.

isabella and charlie
isabella and charlie

When Isabella gets older, she gets married and leaves the estate. However, after a while he comes back as a widow with two young daughters - Emmeline and Adeline. She is completely indifferent to children, she does not even distinguish between twins. The woman is still apathetic. She is at the mercy of Charlie. The girls are only cared for by gardener John-Copoon and housekeeper Karen.

Girls who adopted red hair and green eyes from their father also inherited their parents' mental disorders. They do not talk, communicate with each other through sounds and gestures, while they consider the world around them crazy. Adeline is cruel. She even beats her beloved sister, pulls out her hair and burns her with a red-hot iron. Emmeline is passive. She lags behind in development and obeys her sister in everything. One day the girls are kidnappeda stroller with a child from a local resident, and only by a miracle he remains alive.

One day, the wife of a local doctor visits the estate to find out what conditions the children live in. Someone hits her on the head. When the woman wakes up, her suspicion falls on Isabella, who still looks like a ghost. A woman is taken to a psychiatric hospital.

The twins are entrusted to the care of the governess Esther, who quickly finds a common language with Emmeline. However, the stubborn Adelina does not make contact and constantly beats her sister. The girls decide to separate. However, Esther falls in love with a local doctor. After his wife sees them kissing Esther, the governess is forced to leave. A year later, the doctor, having become a widow, will go to her in America and offer her hand and heart. They will have four children.

The March sisters reunite after Esther's departure. When they turn 17, Charlie's corpse is found in the woods. The madman shot himself. Also, under strange circumstances, the servants - the housekeeper and the gardener - die.

At the same time, a young gardener's assistant, who has recently appeared on the estate, seduces the half-witted Emmeline. From him she gives birth to a boy. Adeline hates the baby and is jealous of her sister with terrible force.

two sisters
two sisters

Solve the mystery

And then Margaret, writing down Vida's story, begins to realize that in fact there were not two sisters, but three. Although before that she suspected that she was talking to Adeline. In fact, she is being interviewed by Charlie's illegitimate daughter, born of a maid. From him she inherited red hair and green eyes, butmentally she is perfectly he althy. She also lived on the estate, but only the murdered gardener and housekeeper knew about her. They raised her but didn't give her a name.

The rule of three… The magic number. Three tests that the prince must pass in order to get the hand of the princess. Three wishes given to a fisherman by a talking fish. Three bears in the fairy tale about Goldilocks. Three little pigs and a wolf. (Vida Winter)

An unnamed girl looks after her sisters. She loves Emmeline, but is afraid of Adeline. Vida sees that Emmeline's crazy sister becomes jealous of the baby. When Adelina starts a fire, Vida saves her sister and her baby. Adeline dies in the fire. Now it is clear that it was she who was responsible for the death of the servants.

Vida takes the name Adeline, as the girls are very similar in appearance, and no one will notice the substitution.

The girl throws her sister's child to a local resident. After all, Emmeline completely lost her mind after the incident. It is noteworthy that the question of who Vida actually saved remains open. Initially, it seems to the reader that Emmeline survived, but at the end of the book, the author hints that it was Adeline.

Having finished her confession, Vida dies. Her crazy sister also fades after her. Margaret finds and reads The Thirteenth Tale, which Vida has not published anywhere. This is the story of the life of a little future writer, a girl who did not even have a name. She was looked after by a gardener and a governess; as far as possible, she helped them to look after the crazy sisters. And when Adeline killed the servants, she completely took care of the sisters.

Margaret finds Aurelius, who has been tormented by the question of who his parents were for sixty years. She tells him the story of the sisters. It turns out that his father has a daughter from a legal marriage - a young girl Karen, who lives in the village. Aurelius is happy because now he has a sister.

Margaret herself begins an affair with the doctor who treated Vida Winter in the last weeks of her life. After learning the terrible story of the sisters, she finally came to terms with her past, as well as with the death of her twin. One day a ghost appears to her. Margaret is happy. She finally found peace of mind.


sophie turner
sophie turner

The film rights to "The Thirteenth Tale" were purchased by the English film company Heyday Films, the same one that produced all the Harry Potter films. The film's screenplay, almost entirely adapted from the book's plot, was written by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton. The film "The Thirteenth Tale" was presented to the audience in 2013.

It should be noted that there are few differences between the book and the movie. This is confirmed by reviews of the book "The Thirteenth Tale". The story focuses more on the feelings and experiences of Margaret Lee, tells more about the life of the inhabitants of the village near Angelfield. In addition, in the book, sister Margaret dies as a result of an operation, and in the film, the viewer learns that the girl died under the wheels of a car in childhood.

The director's chair was taken by James Kent.

It should be said that the film turned out really beautifuland atmospheric. The excellent work of the operators, the soulful play of the actors and the beautiful scenery completely immerse the viewer in the story. It is very slow at first, but over time it gains momentum and suddenly comes the denouement.

Actors and roles

Antonia Clark
Antonia Clark

The roles were played by actors, many of whom are already known to the reader. Olivia Colman played Margaret Lee in The Thirteenth Tale. Vanessa Redgrave reincarnated as Winter, a dying writer telling her latest story. The beautiful Isabella was played by Emily Beacham. However, the reader's attention was focused on two (or rather three) red-haired girls. The nine-year-old twins were played by Madeleine Power. And seventeen-year-old girls on the screen were embodied by Antonia Clarke (Emmeline and Adeline) and Sophie Turner (Vida Winter).

It should be said that Antonia perfectly played the crazy sisters. She managed to reincarnate not only as a passive and indifferent Emmeline, but also to become a cruel and hating Adeline. The beginning, but already known to many, Sophie Turner, the role was less ambitious, but no less significant. The viewer watches her with special attention, feeling the mind in the ocean of madness that the Angelfield mansion has become.

Interesting fact: Sophie Turnet herself also had a twin sister, but she died in the womb before birth. Notably, The Thirteenth Tale is not Sophie's first film to feature twins. In 2013, the psychological thriller The Other Me was also released with her participation.

The film "The Thirteenth Tale" in 2013 was released onscreens. It has a rating of 6, 9, which is a fairly high rating for a modern film in true English style.

Reviews about "The Thirteenth Tale"

About the book and the film, the audience responded ambiguously. On the one hand, the acting and camera work are top notch. On the other hand, many did not like some of the length of the story. The story is dramatic and unusual, the director was able to convey the atmosphere of the book. However, at the same time, the viewer cannot feel the same feelings that the book evokes in the reader.

Besides this, many believe that there are too many crazy people in the plot. The mysterious poster and no less mysterious title captivated many, but most expected something more fantastic. Alas, in addition to the appearance of a ghost at the end of the story, you will not find mystics either in the book or in the film. This story is filled with terrible secrets and sick imagination of the heroines. Some readers argue that the book is still many times better than the movie, as it reveals in more detail both the characters of the main characters and the motives for their actions.

Of the minuses, they also noted the crumpled finale, which is described in more detail in the book. The film adaptation received generally positive reviews. The audience highly appreciated the atmosphere, musical accompaniment and the acting of the actors.