Setterfield, Diane 1964(?)-
Setterfield, Diane 1964(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1964, in Reading, England; married Peter Whittall (an accountant). Education: Attended Bristol University.
ADDRESSES: Home— Harrowgate, Yorkshire, England.
CAREER: Writer. Worked variously as an English teacher in France, a French professor, and as a private French teacher for people moving to France.
The Thirteenth Tale (novel), Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Diane Setterfield’s best-selling literary mystery novel, The Thirteenth Tale, transformed her from a teacher into a professional writer. The book tells the story of Vida Winter, a famous author best known for her volume of thirteen stories, of which the last is missing. Winter hires Margaret Lea, a biographer and bookseller, to write about her life, but nothing about the situation is as straightforward as it might seem, and the result is a gothic tale of adultery, arson, and identity swapping. Setterfield admits that the most difficult thing about devoting her time to writing the book was the precariousness of a writer’s life. She told Publishers Weekly contributor Dick Donahue: “There were no guarantees that my writing would be any good, that I would be able to finish the novel satisfactorily, or that anyone would want to read it.” Setterfield’s gamble to try her hand at writing paid off. Her novel sold in a ten-day auction, earning large advances for both the British and American rights. Rights to the novel were sold in more than thirty countries. The book also landed on the top of American best-seller lists the first week after it was published. Regarding her sudden popularity, Setterfield told BookBrowse.com:“I’m used to living a really quiet life with lots of space to think. I’m not used to being so busy and social and meeting all these people. It’s not that I’m anti-social, just that I like my own company, and I’ve been living with people who aren’t real for the past few years—I find real people a lot more demanding.”
The Thirteenth Tale has garnered strong critical praise as well as commercial success. Kaite Mediatore Stover, in a review for Booklist, called the book “a wholly original work told in the vein of all the best gothic classics.” A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that “this is no postmodern revision of the genre. It is a contemporary gothic tale whose excesses and occasional implausibility... can be forgiven for the thrill of the storytelling.” In a review for Entertainment Weekly, Tina Jordan remarked: “Setterfield’s spooky, gloom-infused work lovingly invokes both Jane Eyre and Rebecca..., but the mystery is very much her own.” Frank Wilson, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, concluded that “those who buy and read this complex, compelling and, in the end, deeply moving novel are unlikely to feel they’ve been shortchanged.”Library Journal contributor Jenne Bergstrom dubbed the novel “equally suited to a rainy afternoon on the couch or a summer day on the beach.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, May 15, 2006, author biography, p. S10; September 1, 2006, Kaite Mediatore Stover, review of The Thirteenth Tale, p. 58.
Bulletin with Newsweek, November 14, 2006, Anne Susskind, review of The Thirteenth Tale, p. 77.
Entertainment Weekly, September 15, 2006, Tina Jordan, “Winter’s Tale” review of The Thirteenth Tale, p. 80.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 30, 2006, Michelle Orange, review of The Thirteenth Tale, p. D8.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2006, review of The Thirteenth Tale, p. 697.
Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Jenne Bergstrom, review of The Thirteenth Tale, p. 73.
People, October 2, 2006, Sue Corbett, review of The Thirteenth Tale, p. 61.
Philadelphia Inquirer, October 4, 2006, Frank Wilson, review of The Thirteenth Tale.
Publishers Weekly, June 26, 2006, review of The Thirteenth Tale, p. 27; August 14, 2006, Dick Donahue, author biography, p. 89.
Spectator, September 30, 2006, Miranda France, review of The Thirteenth Tale.
Independent Online, http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/ (September 25, 2006), Louise Jury, “British Teacher Becomes a Literary Sensation in the US.”
Internet Writing Journal, http://www.internetwritingjournal.com/ (September 25, 2006), author biography and interview.
Scrinanbbles Blog, http://scrinanbbles.blogspot.com/ (October 16, 2006), Nancy Fontaine, review of The Thirteenth Tale.*