Book Review: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield #amreading #bookbloggers #readingrecommendations

Rating: 5/5

Blurb (from goodreads):

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.

Once Upon a River is a glorious tapestry of a book that combines folklore and science, magic and myth. Suspenseful, romantic, and richly atmospheric, the beginning of this novel will sweep you away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting you through worlds both real and imagined, to the triumphant conclusion whose depths will continue to give up their treasures long after the last page is turned.

My Review


This book makes me want to steal stars from every book I’ve ever read so I can give it infinite stars!!!

This is a stunning work of art, a joyous piece of storytelling, and right now is possibly the best novel I’ve ever read. The characters, the detail, the stories, the wonder. Oh, such beautiful, wonderful prose. I wanted to note it, but then I did not want to stop reading to do so.

I was there in the story, carried on the pull of its threads knitting together. I felt the droplets in my breath, my skin damp and the air thick with the scent of the river. Saw the questioning, uncertain, knowing, grieving, laughing, fighting eyes of the people I met. Heard the constant low whoosh of the river, the squeal of pigs, the click of a camera, the hush of the listeners waiting with anticipation for more of the tale. I felt the pangs of love, loss, hope and fury. The realisation, the lessons, the hope.

This book will stay with me for a long time. Read it, everyone, read it. It’s how storytelling is meant to be.

To find out more about the author visit her author page here.

Thanks for reading

Anna xx

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