Imagine a ruined house, an inheritance, a mysterious set of feral twins, a topiary garden, a murder, a ghost–these are just some of the Gothic elements that permeate The Thirteenth Tale. Vida Winter, a successful novelist, contacts the bookish narrator, Margaret Lea, because she has one more tale to tell–the titular 13th tale.

For years she has created falsehoods rather than reveal her past. She tell Margaret Lea she intends to tell the truth, at last, before the “wolf” catches her.

The Thirteenth Tale is a Gothic novel that explores how secrets and dark obsessions can destroy a family. More than that, however, it playfully looks at the slippery notion of self-hood–the small and cataclysmic changes that affect us and shake our identity.

If the novel is about abandonment–there’s more than one abandoned child; it is, joyfully, also about reclaiming your family and your place in the world. 

Fans of this novel might enjoy seeing the BBC mini-series adaptation starring Olivia Holman and Lynn Redgrave. Setterfield has also written Bellman and Black: a Ghost Story and Once Upon a River.