The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.  I haven’t seen the BBC movie (with Redgrave and Coleman), though I would love to. But the book that gave rise to it, a Gothic suspense novel to rival (more or less explicitly) Jane Eyre, strikes me as being, as much as anything, a celebration of reading. The main character, who lives in her father’s bookshop, has been chosen to write a biography of the most famous living novelist in England, Vida Winter.  To do so she must live in Winter’s (possibly haunted) house, comb through the burnt-out shell of the decaying mansion where Winter grew up, but above all sort her way through Winter’s various versions of her life story, itself the missing story from a book Winter has just published. Did I say that both she and Winter (separately) are twins, with lost doubles who haunt their footsteps and absorb their waking thoughts? “Which reality do you choose?” seems to be the question everyone’s lips.  And the answer: “Which one do you prefer?”

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