The Thirteenth Tale Discussion

Oh, do I love this book. It’s officially my new favorite book. I understand that on paper the plot doesn’t sound too amazing, but the way its written is absolutely enthralling!

I really enjoyed the plot twists, especially the fact that there was a third child… that made me put the book down and just absorb all that, but it really leaves the question of “which one is the good twin?”

And I really had trouble picturing Aurelius as a white man. Maybe its just how I think, but every time I hear of a Giant man, I think of Michael Duncan in The Green Mile.

What did you think about it?

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Published on October 13, 2007 at 2:14 pm  Comments (21)  

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  1. I loved this book, I want to re-read it at some point. I enjoyed every element of this book; the plot; the characters; the settings. I think it would make an intriguing movie.
    So many novels were referenced in subtle ways, even at one point a hint at the game “Clue” was introduced. I had to go back and read the end several times before I came to my conclusion as to which sister survived. Oh the twists and turns produced by a master wordsmith.

  2. Hands down this is my favorite read of the year and one of my favorite books of all time! I love a book that keeps me guessing and that could be interpreted in more than one (boring) way. This is a true book lover’s book. All the references to other books just makes it more fascinating. It was beautifully written. I can’t wait to read the author’s next book.

  3. Is it fair to ask who you think died in the fire?

  4. I think it is perfectly alright!

    Because I noticed a drastic change in the behavior of both surviving sisters after the fire, I am led to believe that the “good” twin died. This assumption makes the novel all the more heartbreaking.

  5. Ok guys, I need some closure. I just finished the book, within the last hour actually, and enjoyed it beyond anything I’ve read in a long time. I am totally perplexed, however, with a need to know which twin died in the fire. I decided, after rereading the chapter titled ‘The Fire’ three times, that I must have missed something elsewhere in the book. I’m so relieved to know that it wasn’t my 3:00am reading last night (this morning) that caused me to miss something, and that perhaps the author intended us to draw our own conclusions. I suppose it makes more sense and does indeed make it all the more tragic that Emmeline would have been the one to die in the fire. If she had survived, Vida may have lived a life of pain and regret, but would have had Emmeline, who in the end was the true love of her life. Why can’t I just be happy to draw my own conclusions and move on?

  6. I think it was Emmeline who died in the fire. Margaret gives the urn of the ashes of the “unidentified” bones to Aurelius to bury because the ashes are the ashes of his mother. Also, when they do bury the ashes, on page 394, Maragret refers to “the coffin of the woman I knew as Emmeline.” This implies to me that the coffin really contains Adeline, and the ashes are Emmeline. But, I also believe that the identities are purposely left vague.

  7. But if Emmeline died in the fire, why was Adeline living with Vida so many years later? It seemed as though Vida hated Adeline. The one thing that bothers me about the book is that it gives no explanation as to what happened to the girls after the fire. Where did they go? What did they do? Why didn’t Vida just refer to her as Adeline if she knew deep down Emmeline had died, and why did she take care of her for her entire life?

    My other question is a bit ‘duh’ but I’ll ask it anyway … Did most people conclude that Charlie was the twins’ father and not Roland? I keep wondering that the girls were so strange, slow/wicked because of their incestuous roots (in addition to hopeless upbringing, but the book is pretty clear that the girls were strange from a very young age, and Vida herself grew up in the same environment).

    • They were living together because they were still sisters – regardless of which sister was alive, there is still a bond there that they both acknowledged. That being said, I still think it was the “evil” sister that survived since she was put in the house in the back instead of an adjoining room with Vida.

  8. I loved this book.

    I concluded that it must have been emmeline who died in the fire.. Why else would she reffer to her as the woman I knew as emmeline (about two-three times in the latter part of the book)? I also noticed something vida thought in the fire chapter. Something about that she didnt recognize the person laying on the grass and her being thrown into a deeper grief.. (my guess is she realized she saved adeline. And i think vida winter would have been more heartbroken if it really was emmiline who died in story (right after the return of the narrator returned)

    I also belive charlie was the father of the twins. Firstly because it was implied in the beginning that the realationship between charlie and isabel was of sexual nature. Also because of how the mental health of the twins is. And mostly because of the comment the narrator gives when she watches a picture of roland trying to find some of the twins features in him. She says something like (i think this quote is really imperfect!): I gave up. Because deep inside I knew that I would never find simalarities between roland and the twins.

    And also because of the way one person counted the months and it wouldnt ass up ( i dont think they reffered to if they were concieved before or after the marriage, but rather before or after roland and isabel had met)

  9. I think that Emmeline definitely died in the house fire, and that Vida saved Adeline, and that Charlie was the father of the twins– not Roland. Vida lived with “Emmeline” AKA the real Adeline for so long, maybe, in hopes to right the wrong of passing the baby onto Ms. Love– and to maybe try and give her some love and family in her wicked life. Loved the book. I am a twin so it made the twists and turns so inthralling. I read the book in days; I couldn’t put it down!

  10. I can’t decide. I want to believe that Adeline died in the fire (it makes me feel better), but I think that, whichever one actually survived, died in a way anyway. If Adeline survived, she was too shell-shocked from the loss of her twin to have ever recovered. And if Emmeline survived…well, same deal. She lost her child and her twin.

    Which is really the saddest, for me, for Vida to have rescued Emmeline and lost her anyway.

    I loved this book. A friend of mine recommended the audiobook, actually, so I picked it up and just could not stop reading.

  11. I agree with the people who think that it was Adeline who survived the fire and that Charlie was the father of the twins. My question is, what were the clues for us throughout the book that were suppose to make us think there was a third sister? I can see that we may have gotten got one when Mrs. Maudsley saw the makeshift bed on the floor in the library and that Hester saw a “ghost” in the field with Emmeline that looked just like Adeline when Adeline was clearly at the Doctor’s house at the same time, but how were we supposed to know that the boy who helped John-the-Dig in the garden was actually a third sister? Are there any other clues I should have seen?

  12. I just finished reading the book and after reading I was unsure as to which twin had died in the fire. Certain things implied that it was Emmeline who had died, but on one of the last pages it says that emmeline’s treasure box was saved from the fire, and I felt the author was trying to tell us that emmeline must have survived and taken her box with her. Did anyone else notice that?

  13. In regards to who died in the fire, what about Emmelines Treasure box that was referred to at the ending of the book as being saved from the fire? Cant figure that one out.
    And, why was the baby given away at all? Was it that Vida knew that it was Adeline who was alive and she was still fearful of her harming the baby so she knew she must keep him safe by leaving him on Ms.Loves doorstep?

  14. Actually, Emmeline survived and Adeline died. After the fire, the town people assumed Vida was Adeline and she accepted it. And I think Charlie is the twins’ father.

  15. Hi – great discussion ladies!

    I think it is clear that A) the twins are the product of the incestious relationship between Charlie and Isobelle and that B) ‘The woman whom I had known as Emmeline’ was in fact Adeline. Presumambly she had lost her spark of evil and violence when her twin died – just as she had become catatonic when they were seperated before.

    Some plot holes that I found WEREN’T explained however… when Margaret is trying to verify the story, she never bothers to find the hovel in which Vida found Charlie’s body. I found it unsatisfying that she didn’t seek this out.

    ‘The woman whom we had known to be Emmeline’ is found digging in Vida’s garden and says in twin language ‘the dead go underground’ if this was in fact Adeline what was the meaning of this?

    Margaret says just before revealing that there had been 3 children that she ‘knows who attacked the doctor’s wife with the violin’. Really? Because she never says and it was still unclear to me whether it was the deranged Isobel or the psychotic Adeline…

    Great book though. Read it in 24 hours.

  16. It seems that most people on this post lean towards Adeline being the twin that was saved in the fire. Although I can not be 100% sure, I think the author gives us a clue on the last page before the Postscriptum (pg.404) that it may have been Emmeline who was saved after all. When Margaret tells the Doctor the story of what happened at Angelfield he says, “I remember seeing that treasure box. How did it come to escape the fire?” The book says Margaret stops in her tracks and says, “You know, I never thought to ask.” I think this seemingly subtle exchange of words is a huge clue because the treasure box was the prized possession of Emmeline. She didn’t want anyone touching it. Is it possible that the reason she went back into the burning library was to get the box? Could that be how the box made it out of the fire? If so, it would mean that it really was Emmeline who made it out. I hope so…..what a great story to even make me think this much about it!!

  17. However much I had hoped it was Emmeline whom Vida Winters saved, I could not help but acquiesce to my thought that it was indeed not Emmeline, but Adeline instead.

    Setterfeld left subtle tracks that it was indeed Adeline whom she(unfortunately)saved from the fire. Why it was an easier decision for Vida to leave the young Aurelius in another’s care; a foster mother is one basis. Had Vida been ultimately convinced it was Emmeline whom she saved, she would have opted to see Emmeline (whom she loved) reunited with her baby after the tragic fire. I am also under the impression that Emmeline is the plump one and Vida’s realization of this could have only resurfaced after the initial shock from the fire, hence, the need for a separate home for the twin who survived (Adeline) which readers were led quite confusingly as Emmeline. Let us not forget as well that it was Emmeline who proved to survive better when the twins were separated by the governess and the doctor. But then again, recalling the story, isn’t it that Adeline who, even according to Hester’s diary was referred to as the twin with a ” dark and clouded intelligence”? Recall that Adeline loved sneaking to hear conversations between the doctor and Hester. Adeline knew that they will be separated.

    At any rate, this twist of event, the opaque presentation about who among the twins really survived the fire was dramatic and holds a huge impact in the overall plot.

    Just my two cents. =)

  18. That’s hilarious I also imagined the guy from Green Mile. Fantastic book I’ve only just finished it this week. What twists and turns. Did not expect a third person. What a debut novel!

  19. It had to be Emmeline who died in the fire for the above reasons but also because Vida lived as “Adeline” in the legal sense until she became Vida…remember in the book when she signed the documents as Vida Winter (also known as Adeline March)…so she had to rescue “Emmeline” from the fire or else there would have been two Adelines! Does that make sense? Remember that Vida had no legal identity aside from the assumed identity of Adeline.

  20. I know this is very late, but I just finished the book and had to comment.

    I believe there were a few clues to help us figure out there were three girls. I predicted it right after Hester thought she saw the “ghost” in the field with Emmeline.

    Besides that instance, the whole deal with the “boy in the garden” actually being Vida connects with her amazing garden that Margaret often walks in (during the winter, no less!). She learned her skils from John the Dig, and keeps her beautiful garden in memory of him.

    Also, the constant references to Jane Eyre were a clue. In that story, Rochester’s insane wife is locked up in the attic, and Jane keeps thinking it’s a ghost (before she learns the truth). There’s also the parallel of the fire burning down the grand house in both stories (both set by insane women).

    Another clue is when Vida uses “I” for the first time in telling the story. It’s when Isabella dies and Charlie disappears, and they enter the nursery to find him gone. This is very subtle, but I thought it was interesting that she separated herself from the twin at that time, and I was suspicious of it.

    There is also the reference to “the girl in the mist” that Hester sees that one day while they read Jane Eyre. I believe, in hindsight, that this was actually Vida taking Adeline’s place for the day, which is why Hester noticed just a slight difference about her–that she was listening to the story (because she could connect to it).

    Finally, there is the fact that “Adeline” just steps up after the Missus dies and turns into this capable, intelligent young woman. It’s subtle, and I didn’t really suspect it at first, but after reading the story, I can see that it’s clear that Adeline’s wickedness would not have just “gone away” after the Missus died. Or that John the Dig would have taught her how to care for the topiary garden after she broke his heart and his spirit in destroying it. It doesn’t match up. (Margaret ponders this herself at one point in the novel.)

    Sorry for the long reply…


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