The Thirteenth Tale


The Thirteenth Tale is a book which shifts between two main stories. One tells of the life of amateur biographer Margaret Lea and her exploration of the Angelfield/March family's past. The other is the story which Winter tells Lea. These two intertwined stories are occasionally interrupted by letters and notes of supporting characters. The change between the different sections in this book is indicated by a small graphic or an asterisk or a new chapter.

The Thirteenth Tale is told through a first-person point of view, commonly Margaret Lea’s. In this way, the reader only knows what Lea knows, and is able to solve the mystery with her. The first-person point of view also shifts to other characters, such as Vida Winter, who presents her own view through the story she tells Lea, and Hester Barrow, who presents her own view through the entries in her diary. Vida Winter originally tells her story through a third-person point of view, but then changes to first person, which causes Lea to speculate about the truthfulness of her story. This change is later explained in the book, when the idea of a cousin is introduced.

The Thirteenth Tale is divided into four sections: Beginnings, Middles,Endings and again Beginnings. Each section is introduced by a title page with the name of the section and a photograph which hints what will happen in that particular section of the book. The ‘Beginnings’ title page has a photograph of two pairs of black-buckled shoes, like the shoes the little girls wear on the cover of the book. Placed side by side, the pairs of shoes suggest similarity and bonds; they cause the reader to speculate about the theme of twins, as twins often wear matching clothing. The ‘Middles’ title page has a picture of a fancy doorknob on a slightly ajar door. The opening of the door represents the reader going further into the story, opening another door and proceeding and, in turn, revealing more secrets. At this point in the book the reader, with Margaret Lea, begins to unravel the mystery of Vida Winter and the Angelfield/March family. The ‘Endings’ title page is represented by a photograph of ripped pages of books, crumpled and folded over each other. The words on the pages indicate the pages are from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, a book which is known to have influenced some characters in the novel, such as Margaret Lea and Vida Winter. Jane Eyre provides a link among all these characters, and the ripped pages indicate the ending of all their stories.

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