Diane Setterfield is a popular British historical mystery author, best known for her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale.
Her books are not straight-up mysteries. Instead, many readers categorize them as historical gothic with magical realism elements embedded, and they are not wrong. Each of the Diane Setterfield books is standalone, but they all share this eerie historical gothic theme. Well, except for the author’s novella, which is a retelling of a classic children’s tale.
Here are the Diane Setterfield books in order. The list will be updated as soon as the author writes new stories.
New Diane Setterfield Book
Standalone Diane Setterfield Books
- The Thirteenth Tale, 2006
- Bellman & Black, 2013
- The Princess and the Pea, 2013 (free novella)
- Once Upon a River, 2018
Diane Setterfield Biography
Diane Setterfield is a British author who was born in 1964, in rural Berkshire, UK. She grew up in Theale, a village not far away from her home. Diane is the eldest of three girls, and with her mom being also from a large family, she grew up around an extended family.
After high school, she attended the University of Bristol, where she studied French Literature, where she got a a bachelor of arts degree in 1986.
She continued her studies and after writing her thesis for 7 years, Diane Setterfield got a PhD with a focus on 19th century French literature, especially the autobiographical structures in André Gide’s early fiction. During this time she was working part time in a library to pay her fees.
After finishing her studies, she began working as a teacher of English at two French universities, following which she became a French lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK. She also attended a creative writing course taught by novelist Jim Crace, who admired Diane’s determination and her writing talent.
At the end of the 1990s, she left the teaching career to focus on writing books. In fact, one of the reasons for her disenchantment with teaching at a British university was the fact that she had no longer time to read, time for herself to unwind with a book in her hands.
In an interview, she once mentioned that
I crave an existence where I live in a library/kitchen with an endless supply of food and books, and nothing to do but read and eat.
During those times, she had no children, so the financial insecurity of leaving her regular job and stay at home and write was not as strongly felt as if she had a full family that was strongly depended on her income.
She did have a few extra jobs though before she became a writer, including a chambermaid, shop assistant, bakery assistant, translator, and language tutor, among others.
Her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, published in 2006, while it took the author 3 years to write, it was an instant bestseller. It was published in 38 countries all over the world, and over the years, it sold more than 3 million copies. For three weeks it also ended as the first in the New York Times hardback fiction list. The book was also made into a BBC miniseries drama written by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave.
The book’s beginnings were quite hot as well, since the manuscript ended up in a hot bidding-war both in the US and the UK. In the UK it was sold for 800,000 GBP, while in the US for $1 million. Still, it was interesting to note that while the first book’s success was instant and remarkable, in the UK it was not quite so.
Her second book, Bellman & Black, was also a major success, and her third novel, Once Upon a River, is on its way to become a bestseller as well.
The river mentioned in the third novel is Thames, of course, and Diane Setterfield was so captivated by it that a few years ago she actually moved close to its banks in Oxford.
The story, which is about a boy who died and came back to life again, was briefly inspired by a story a young Diane heard about a boy who drowned in a lake in the US but eventually came back to life.
The book Once Upon a River is already in the works and will become a TV series by the same team that brought us Broadchurch and Grantchester.
Diane Setterfield loves reading novels set in the 19th Century, and her own books reflect that love for the Victorian era. Also, reading in general plays an important part in her firt book, The Thirteenth Tale. The author loves reading, and the motif is there in the story as well.
In an interview she mentioned that
I knew it would be believable to write about books, bookstores, reading itself – literature is the biggest passion of my life.
Reading the Diane Setterfield books in order is a pleasant standalone journey since each book can be read on its own. And as the author has only written 3 book so far (and a novella), it is also a rather quick journey. This doesn’t mean that the book should be read fast. They should be savored and really enjoyed fully.
Praise for Diane Setterfield
A beguiling tale, full of twists and turns like the river at its heart, and just as rich and intriguing. —M.L. Stedman
This is magical, bewitching storytelling…High prose expressed with rare clarity, story for the unashamed sake of story, a kind of moral dreaminess…well, the list continues to grow.—Jim Crace
One of the most pleasurable and satisfying new books I’ve read in a long time. Setterfield is a master storyteller…swift and entrancing, profound and beautiful. —Madeline Miller
Once Upon A River succeeds in doing what you hope every book will do – pull you in from the first page, hold you captive in the middle, then leave you satisfied and thoughtful at the end. I loved it. Renee Knight
Diane Setterfield has created a true reading experience. Once Upon a River is the story of three missing girls and three desperate families all set against the Thames and woven together with magic, mystery, and mayhem. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and altogether wondrous. Simply put, it is a joy to read. Ariel Lawhon