I have closed my study door on the world and shut myself away with people of my imagination. For nearly sixty years I have eavesdropped with impunity on the lives of people who do not exist . . . I have seen their dreams. 
Wildly popular and prolific author Vida Winter has entranced readers for over sixty years with her books. But the reclusive author scarcely reveals the truth of her life. Over the years she has satisfied snoopy and importuning interviewers with stories—sometimes odds and ends fallen out of editing her books—that look like real life. Old and ailing, feeling the clock inside her is ticking away, Miss Winter calls on Margaret Lea, a young biographer who is also coming to terms with her own history, and disinters the life she is intent to bury for good. Little does Margaret expect that the tale unveiled, which involves feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a disappearing governess, a devastating fire, bears a gothic strangeness, revolving around a house called Angelfield.
After giving birth to the twin girls, who were then left to the mercy of the housekeeper and the gardener, Isabelle went away to escape the dark, unbrotherly passion of her brother, Charlie. Eventually she met her destiny at the asylum. Neglected by Isabelle, Charlie went on a rampage, venting his rage and passion. He, too, later disappeared from the house where he had taken hermitage.
For although everyone knew Vida Winter—knew her name, knew her face, knew her books—at the same time nobody knew her. As famous for her secrets as for her stories, she was a perfect mystery. 
What I didn’t know—and this was more than curious—was what the storyteller thought. In telling her tale, Miss Winter was like the light that illuminates everything but itself. She was the disappearing point at the heart of the narrative. 
Reader cannot help scratching his mind about what Vida Winter’s bearing is in respect to the happenings at Angelfield. What could be the cause of her distancing herself from the story? That more layers of the story have been peeled does not gain insight into the compelling and emotional mystery of family secrets is what makes The Thirteenth Tale riveting. But there exists a subtle hint, in the form of a recurring stylistic motif. In telling the story, Vida Winter frequently changes the point of view from third to first person. This will become a significant point to account for how stories within stories, all inextricably intertwined, weave their way through the family secrets.
The ghost was, in the usual way of ghosts, most invisible, and yet not quite invisible. There was the closing of doors that had been left open, and the opening of doors left shut. The flash of movement in a mirror that made you glance up. The shimmer of a draft behind a curtain when there was no window open. 
Is the house haunted? Does the ghost murder? As Margaret checks up on the family, visiting their old home and piecing together their story in her own way, all the pieces of the puzzle seem to fall into place. The Thirteenth Tale deals with madness, sexual obsession, and murder in a very sweeping atmosphere. At the core of the novel is the deep-running twinness of the feral twins that renders their being resistant to the idea of having separate identity. That natural instinct to being as one can be both love and hatred.
405 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]