Once I’d got used to the idea that this book was actually not about the Amish (I got that impression from the two little girls in white cotton petticoats on the front cover!), I settled down to enjoy it.
Margaret Lea is a solitary character, spending her time helping in her father’s bookshop, where she lives above the shop. Having published a short biographical essay, she is approached by a celebrated contemporary author, Vida Winter. Ms Winter asks Margaret to chronicle the truth about her life, telling the story of her childhood and upbringing at Angelfield, the family home. As you would expect from such a tale, Vida is reclusive, eccentric and ready to reveal her secrets.
The author of ‘The Thirteenth Tale’ has been accused of being pretentious, as the book has a Gothic feel together with references to several classics, most notably ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Rebecca’. That was not my impression. It’s an interesting take on the rambling house/skeletons in the cupboard/family saga and the plot had enough twists to keep me interested throughout. The book was adapted as a TV movie, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Vida Winter – perfect choice.
I rather wished I was Margaret – bookshop inhabitant, wanderer of old houses, budding biographer!