Once Upon a River
A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.Is it a miracle?Is it magic?Or can it be explained by science?Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

Once Upon a River Details

TitleOnce Upon a River
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseDec 4th, 2018
PublisherAtria/Emily Bestler Books
ISBN-139780743298070
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery, Adult, Adult Fiction, European Literature, British Literature, Literary Fiction

Once Upon a River Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    Along the borders of this world lie others.There are places you can cross.This is one such place. This is a beautiful story. It's a genre-crosser: something of a historical mystery told like a fairy tale with magical realism. Everything straddles the line between reality and the supernatural, and sometimes it steps over into the fantastical, which might be surprising for fans of Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. I think it works really well, though. I should point out that the story is very s Along the borders of this world lie others.There are places you can cross.This is one such place. This is a beautiful story. It's a genre-crosser: something of a historical mystery told like a fairy tale with magical realism. Everything straddles the line between reality and the supernatural, and sometimes it steps over into the fantastical, which might be surprising for fans of Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. I think it works really well, though. I should point out that the story is very slow burn and that's how the whole book unfolds - there's no "aha!" moment when the pace suddenly starts racing. It's a gentle, often sad, story of the magic in the mundane, and the normal in the seemingly miraculous. Setterfield sets the tale along the banks of a fictional River Thames in an unspecified time that feels a hundred years or so before ours. True to our own history, this time is rife with superstition and folklore, tales of ghosts and fortune-telling. This allows for some uncertainty over what is supernatural and what exists in the minds of superstitious people. Does Bess really have the ability to look into someone's soul and see their true self, or is she just a woman adept at reading people?I think that's what makes this story so thrilling. The line between our reality and the possibility of the supernatural is a fine one. I love fairy tales that open your eyes to the many "magical" things in our own world.The story follows many characters and is largely centred around an inn called The Swan. One night, an injured man stumbles into the inn carrying a dead child. A child who sometime later is alive. Not only is this a mystery in itself, but so is the child's identity. Where did she come from? Could she be the missing daughter of the Vaughans who disappeared two years earlier? Could she be the grandchild of Mr Armstrong? The child in question does not speak a word. The rhythm of the train on the tracks suggested words to his overtired brain and he heard them as clearly as if an unseen person had pronounced them: Something is going to happen. As with The Thirteenth Tale, Setterfield really emphasizes the power of stories to shape people. The lore believed by these characters plays into their everyday lives, defining them. They are all so well-drawn, living seemingly simple working class lives, but hiding dark secrets and traumas that will, of course, come back to haunt them. Perhaps literally. This is a gorgeous fairy tale, woven with everything that gives fairy tales their timeless quality. It is a quieter, more grounded in reality version of Katherine Arden or Naomi Novik. The feel reminds me somewhat of 2012's The Snow Child, but with a very different setting and a bigger cast of characters.Fans of quiet fairy tales about people and (maybe) magic should love this. Warnings for (view spoiler)[physical (on-page) and sexual (off-page) abuse. (hide spoiler)] There must be more to stories than you think. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Chelsea Humphrey
    January 1, 1970
    "It was solstice night, the longest night of the year... And as the borders between night and day stretch to their thinnest, so too do the borders between worlds... Unexpected things can happen. Did the solstice have anything to do with the strange events at the swan? You will have to judge for yourself."As a newcomer to Diane Setterfield's work and hearing what a legend she is in the book community, I was excited and a little bit anxious to see how I would receive her brand of storytelling. I w "It was solstice night, the longest night of the year... And as the borders between night and day stretch to their thinnest, so too do the borders between worlds... Unexpected things can happen. Did the solstice have anything to do with the strange events at the swan? You will have to judge for yourself."As a newcomer to Diane Setterfield's work and hearing what a legend she is in the book community, I was excited and a little bit anxious to see how I would receive her brand of storytelling. I was blessed beyond all measure to read this alongside dear friend Leigh Kramer, and knew that no matter what the outcome we would have delightful discussions along the way. From the very first page I knew this story would be something special; the lush prose and dreamlike atmosphere were enticing, and Setterfield's gift in speaking directly to the reader drew me in and gripped me like a vice until I turned the final page. "When the cold river doesn't feel cold, that's when you know you're in trouble."I've seen some varied opinions of this book, and what I've noticed so far is how, whether feelings of delight or boredom, readers have strong opinions of this story. As someone who was able to go into this knowing that it would be a slow burn from start to finish, I think it gave me the perspective I needed to pick it up at just the right time so that I could let the story guide me gently along, rather than feeling like I had to cram it in and blow through it in a hurried frenzy. For those looking for a fast paced, plot driven mystery, you won't find it here, but for those searching out a unique story tinged with just the right amount of magic to keep you wondering if this story is indeed supernatural, let me introduce you to Once Upon A River."All she was left with when she rose stiffly and took her coat off to go to bed was a deep and impenetrable mystery.OUAR is the type of story that I could spend pages writing about the atmosphere and "feels", but I also want to take a moment to discuss the characters. There is quite a large cast in this book, and it does take a good chunk before everyone becomes familiar and things begin to fall into place and connect. I found myself texting Leigh frequently asking "wait, now who is this again? And who do they belong to in the story?" because she is gifted in keeping up with all of the confusing things in life. I highly recommend finding a Leigh, but you can't have mine. It was interesting to see which characters we clicked with instantly, which had to grow on us, which ones we hated throughout, and how some of our views changed as the story progressed."And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world you came from. This river, which is and is not the Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to?"This book was so wonderful, and I think the author did a fantastic job of portraying a vivid, diverse cast of a small town community in the late 1800's, and I believe my only minor issue was with the way the story ended for one character, Rita. While I can't go into detail here due to spoilers, I was a little disappointed that her personality and morals took a 180 in the very final passages, as she was my absolute favorite character in the book for those reasons. Overall though, there's not much to complain about here. OUAR was the kind of book that makes you believe in rich, traditional storytelling once again, and includes the type of writing that feels somehow elevated from most current publications. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a novel that will sweep you away into a whirl of magic you had forgotten existed since you were a child. *Thank you Atria Books for providing my review copy.
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  • Debra
    January 1, 1970
    On a deep, dark night at an inn located on the Thames river, the regulars have gathered to swap stories, drink and unwind from their days. The evening is like any other night at the inn, until an injured stranger walked in carrying what they believe to be a doll in his arms and collapses. After calling upon the local midwife/nurse, they learn that the "doll" is a young girl. A young girl who appears to be dead after drowning in the river -yet lives! No one recognizes the man or the child. Word g On a deep, dark night at an inn located on the Thames river, the regulars have gathered to swap stories, drink and unwind from their days. The evening is like any other night at the inn, until an injured stranger walked in carrying what they believe to be a doll in his arms and collapses. After calling upon the local midwife/nurse, they learn that the "doll" is a young girl. A young girl who appears to be dead after drowning in the river -yet lives! No one recognizes the man or the child. Word gets out, as word often does, and the villagers begin whispering their theories. There are also families out there with missing daughters. Those who desperately want their child back, those who want to see this four-year girl to determine if she is their missing loved one. The girl never appears to recognize anyone, nor does she speak. She looks longingly at the river as if waiting for something or someone.Like the Thames river, this book flowed. There are a lot of characters in this book and after a couple of chapters I had them straight. Setterfield has built a community of characters who have their own backstories and history. All the families and back stories are important. So, no skimming! This book felt epic in nature. It's also atmospheric with the river, the rain, the countryside. I could imagine everything that was happening. We are not told the year, but this took place after photography was invented, so I placed this during the mid-1800's.As with all books, there will be characters the reader likes and those we are not meant to like. Armstrong and Rita were my favorites. I loved Rita's inquisitive mind and her dedication to science and conducting experiments to make sense of things medically such as how does cold water affect the heart rate. Living in a time of superstition and belief in magic, she was ahead of her times in my opinion. Armstrong was a gentleman who loved his family and was decent and kind even when there were those who were not kind to him.This book relies on folklore and the mystery of the missing girl. But this is not the only story/mystery in this book. Setterfield has crafted many stories within her story/novel. Each family is distinct and as the plot unravels, the reader learns that there is more than one mystery in this book. Not only do most characters have backstories as I previously mentioned, there is also the story of Quietly- a character I wasn't sure was real or a piece of local folklore used to explain life and death on the Thames. I loved the writing, descriptions, and the way the plot unfolded in the end. With each twist and revelation, came new information, leaving me with several "aha" moments while reading. This book is on the longer side and at times it felt a little long but then, at book's completion, I understood the reason for its length. Initially, while reading, I thought perhaps this book could use a little editing, but again, once I was finished, I appreciated knowing all the information and it all came together in the end!Keep in mind that although this book has mystery and some suspense, it is largely character driven. For me this made for a slower yet very satisfying read. This is not a book one should plow through or try to read in one day, take your time and again, no skimming. Even if you think something is unimportant, most likely that will just be the part, that you need to pay attention the most!Atmospheric, well-written, engaging and interesting. This was like reading a fairy tale for grown-ups. Setterfield has proven yet again that she is a great story-teller!Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley who provided me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
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  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    I was attracted to something that I read about this book which describes an inn where people came to tell their stories. The thought of that reminded me of Canterbury Tales, read many, many years ago in college - about travelers telling their stories. There are many stories here to be told and I was drawn in from the beginning by the descriptive writing of the River Thames, the characters. I was on the river, at the inn and in the lives of this cast of characters. I always hesitate to use the wo I was attracted to something that I read about this book which describes an inn where people came to tell their stories. The thought of that reminded me of Canterbury Tales, read many, many years ago in college - about travelers telling their stories. There are many stories here to be told and I was drawn in from the beginning by the descriptive writing of the River Thames, the characters. I was on the river, at the inn and in the lives of this cast of characters. I always hesitate to use the word atmospheric because it’s used so often, but in this case it’s the best word I can come up with to describe the feel of this novel.Something happens at the inn known for story telling, the Swann at Radcot when an injured man and a little girl appearing to be dead show up. Shortly after, Rita, the nurse who could easily be a doctor, is examining the little girl and then she’s not really dead anymore. This is not just the story of the girl, who mesmerizes anyone who sees her. While she is an attraction to many people, she also represents hope to others who have lost a little girl, wanting her to be theirs. Is she the Vaughn’s missing daughter Amelia or is she the Armstrong’s granddaughter Alice or is she Lily White’s little sister Ann who has been missing or will she belong to Rita, who it seems has brought her back to life ? Does she belong to anyone? There is mystery and magical realism and the fairy tale like quality of the girl was reminiscent for me of The Snow Child. I needed to be patient with this one because I felt it was slow at times and maybe a little long. Having said that, the writing is lovely and there are a number of characters to connect with. I loved the ending. This ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Mary Beth *Traveling Sister*
    January 1, 1970
    The Swann is an ancient Inn, along the Thames where lots of storytelling is done there. On a dark night someone was telling a story the door opened and a newcomer came in. They were trying to make sense of what they were seeing. They thought it might of been a monster from a folk tale. Once there senses came togethor, they noticed in his arms was a puppet with a face and limbs and painted hair.The man was unconscious and they put him on a table. They thought he was dead. Margot, the owner of the The Swann is an ancient Inn, along the Thames where lots of storytelling is done there. On a dark night someone was telling a story the door opened and a newcomer came in. They were trying to make sense of what they were seeing. They thought it might of been a monster from a folk tale. Once there senses came togethor, they noticed in his arms was a puppet with a face and limbs and painted hair.The man was unconscious and they put him on a table. They thought he was dead. Margot, the owner of the inn, laid a feather in his lips and it moved. He was breathing. No one knew him. Jonathaon put the puppet on his lap. He noticed that the puppets hair was made with real hair and it's ears looked so real. He gave it a shake and the arm swung from its shoulder. Then he noticed it was a little girl. She wouldn't wake up. They thought she drowned and was dead. Rita thought she was four years old. She had no pulse and wasn't breathing. The girl was dead before she went into the water. There was no sign on how she died. After some time the corpse opened her eyes. The girls head moved. Her eyes closed again and they noticed her chest was moving. She was breathing in and out. What made this girl come alive again? Who does she belong to? Is it a miracle or is it magic? Did it have anything to do with the winter solstice? This book was so beautifully written. You could just get lost in the prose. I just loved the atmosphere. I love this author and loved The Thirteenth Tale by her, so I just had to read this one. I loved it just as much. I thought this was a character driven novel and thought the characters were well done. I just loved Rita. The book needs to be read slow, there was a little confusion for me, but then all the peices came together and it then becomes a mystery. It is a thought provoking novel. It really makes you think. I thought it was very enchanting and it was very well crafted. The book is part historical fiction, a little fantasy, magical realism, and mystery. Just a little something for everyone. Even though it has a slow burn to it, I suggest to keep reading it because it gets a lot better. I am so happy that I stuck with it. I highly recommend it, if you don't mind a slow burn.I want to thank Atria/Emily Bestler Books and NetGalley for the copy of this book t n exchange for a honest review.
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  • Susanne Strong
    January 1, 1970
    4 Fantastical Stars! A Tale of Folklore, Legend, Magic and Mystery. Late one night at a pub called the Swan at Radcot on the River Thames, villagers unwind with a pint, as they often do. A man comes to the door with the body of a cold, lifeless girl in his arms and promptly passes out. He sleeps for days. Rita Sunday, the town medic, checks them both over. To her astonishment, she soon discovers that the young girl is, in fact, alive. People come from near and far to see her, including three f 4 Fantastical Stars! A Tale of Folklore, Legend, Magic and Mystery. Late one night at a pub called the Swan at Radcot on the River Thames, villagers unwind with a pint, as they often do. A man comes to the door with the body of a cold, lifeless girl in his arms and promptly passes out. He sleeps for days. Rita Sunday, the town medic, checks them both over. To her astonishment, she soon discovers that the young girl is, in fact, alive. People come from near and far to see her, including three families, all of whom claim her as their own. The Vaughns, whose daughter Amelia, went missing two years ago; Lily White, age 40, who believes this girl is her sister Ann; and finally Robert Armstrong, who is positive that she is his son Robin’s missing daughter, Alice Armstrong. This girl is mute and is completely unanimated, except when watching the river, watching and waiting, for what, we do not know. It is said that the river is known for taking care of its own. For bringing back lost things and saving people from harm. That a man named Quietly guards it, only bringing back those to safety who actually deserve it.Who is this little girl and to whom does she belong? That is the question. You’ll have to take a trip to the Thames, to find out. Once Upon A River is a dark, atmospheric novel, layered with folklore, magic, mystery and elements of the supernatural, thus I was immediately swept away by this eerie epic saga. The richness of the characters are multi-faceted and they made this story so very magical. They include: Henry Daunt, the photographer who notices things others do not, Bess Armstrong, who has some very unusual traits, Rita Sunday whose strength everyone relies on and Robert Armstrong, whose heart is as true as his word. Here, Diane Setterfield examines mystical elements: she takes the readers away, and lets us escape to another time and place, to people who have special abilities, some of whom can see into the heart of others, some who may see things that we do not. It depends on whether or not you believe...This is a novel which includes vivid descriptions, all of which enraptured me with their elegance and their fierceness and simply captured my heart. Once Upon a River has multiple storylines, all of which are interwoven together brilliantly as each and every storyline in this novel falls together in a way I never would have imagined. What more can I say except that this is a novel to read slowly and cherish. It is a great read for lovers of epic novels, readers who like magical realism and those who like rich character driven novels. Once Upon a River is the first book I’ve read by Diane Setterfield and it won’t be my last. This was a another buddy read with Kaceey! Thank you to Meriah Murphy at Atria, NetGalley and to Diane Setterfield for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.Published on NetGalley, Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram on 12.2.18.Will be published on Amazon on 12.4.18.
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    Storytelling perfection! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ I have read nothing like Once Upon a River. A more modern fairy tale? Quite a bit of suspense and mystery…and wonder…and charm…Once Upon a River takes place in a historic ancient inn on the River Thames in England. This inn is famous for its storytelling and its storytellers, and in fact, when a mysterious stranger with obvious physical injuries incoherently bursts into the inn with a commotion, stories are in the midst of being told. The stranger eventually pa Storytelling perfection! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I have read nothing like Once Upon a River. A more modern fairy tale? Quite a bit of suspense and mystery…and wonder…and charm…Once Upon a River takes place in a historic ancient inn on the River Thames in England. This inn is famous for its storytelling and its storytellers, and in fact, when a mysterious stranger with obvious physical injuries incoherently bursts into the inn with a commotion, stories are in the midst of being told. The stranger eventually passes out, but not before the body of a dead young girl is removed from his arms. But she’s not dead. She comes back to life. Was she ever dead? Questioning miracles, science in the age of Darwin, and magical powers; which one caused the girl to be alive again?I felt like Diane Setterfield was sitting by the fire in an ancient English inn telling me a story. I’ve never heard her voice, but I’ve imagined it. She followed me on Twitter, which has me majorly star struck, I must say, especially when she tells stories this way. Ahhh! Sitting by that roaring fire, I snuggled right up into this book. There was something warm about it, a touch dark, romantic, tense, mystical, and every one of those things added up to a book I quite simply adored. This is another one of those novels that requires patience on the part of the reader. While it reads smoothly, it’s a chunk of a book, and it’s one you will savor. So much imagination and inventiveness went into this gem, and it’s worth every extra minute of investment to get to the heart of the full story. In other words: I give this one my highest recommendation. If you can be patient, that is. ♥️ Thanks to Atria Books for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    4+ A wonderful homage to the art of storytelling. I come from a long line of storytellers, summers when my cousins were led on ghost walks by our fathers and uncles as they told ghoststories. We all loved those times. Stories I made up to tell my children when they were young, and then stories I told my grandchildren. Such fun, pre internet days when stories were magic, or scary, but such a great way to connect.All along the Thames are a group of inns, each in has a specialty, music in one, art 4+ A wonderful homage to the art of storytelling. I come from a long line of storytellers, summers when my cousins were led on ghost walks by our fathers and uncles as they told ghoststories. We all loved those times. Stories I made up to tell my children when they were young, and then stories I told my grandchildren. Such fun, pre internet days when stories were magic, or scary, but such a great way to connect.All along the Thames are a group of inns, each in has a specialty, music in one, art in another, but it is the Swan In where villagers go to hear and tell stories, and it is here that this particular story begins. A man, half drowned, bsd badly injured, stumbles into the inn carrying domething in his arms. It is what looks like a young dead girl, but here the story starts it's twist. The girl, determined to be able four, returns to life. Three different people claim her as theirs, but who is she really? Folklore has it that a man, travels the Thanks, ferrying to the other side those that have drowned, but returning to land those whose time has not come.So we mix folklore, with storytelling, and a mystery with some magical happenings. We meet some people who have had tragedy in their lives, all with their own stories and how this young girl fits into them. A delicious Gothic tone, and some key elements. A river, water, the giver and taker life, in fact most chapters begin with a look at the river. A slowly paced book, a book to settle in with and not rush through. Setterfield has again written a book that intrigues, pulls the reader in, slowly giving us a tidbits here and there as we try to piece it all together. And always in the background the importance of stories and storytelling in our lives.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    It was a dark and stormy night...Well, not exactly. But it is a dark night in 1887, the solstice night, the longest night of the year."As is well-known, when the moon hours lengthen, human beings come adrift from the regularity of their mechanical clocks. They nod at noon, dream in waking hours, open their eyes wide to the pitch-black night. It is a time of magic. And as the borders between night and day stretch to their thinnest, so too do the borders between worlds. Dreams and stories merge wi It was a dark and stormy night...Well, not exactly. But it is a dark night in 1887, the solstice night, the longest night of the year."As is well-known, when the moon hours lengthen, human beings come adrift from the regularity of their mechanical clocks. They nod at noon, dream in waking hours, open their eyes wide to the pitch-black night. It is a time of magic. And as the borders between night and day stretch to their thinnest, so too do the borders between worlds. Dreams and stories merge with lived experience, the dead and the living brush against each other in their comings and goings, and the past and the present touch and overlap. Unexpected things can happen."A crowd has gathered at The Swan, an ancient inn on the Thames River. The crowd is prone to storytelling, and no one tells a story like Joe Bliss, the husband of the Swan's landlady. But that night a story all its own takes shape—a wounded man comes staggering in and collapses, caught by some of the men at the inn. He appears to be carrying a doll or puppet of some sort, but the crowd is once again shocked when they discover it's not a puppet, but the lifeless body of a small child."Her skin shimmered like water. The folds of her cotton frock were plastered to the smooth lines of the limbs, and her head tilted on her neck at an angle no puppeteer could achieve. She was a little girl, and they had not seen it, not one of them, though it was obvious."When Rita Sunday, the town's most reliable medical personnel, arrives, she takes care of the unconscious man and mends his wounds, and then examines the little girl. No one is sure what the little girl's connection is to the man, but a pall falls over the crowd at her untimely and tragic death. And then, a few hours later, she starts breathing again. No one, not even Rita, who searches for a scientific answer, understands how this could have happened.Who is this little girl? To whom does she belong? Where is she from? How is she connected to the wounded man? No one can find out any answers, especially because the little girl is mute and cannot provide any information. But of course, that doesn't stop those from near and far from inventing stories that explain her situation. And while fictions grow and become more elaborate, there are three families who believe the little girl belongs to them, and each has a complicated story about how they know this to be so, stories as twisted as the Thames itself.First and foremost, Once Upon a River is a tribute to the art of storytelling. It is beautifully told, and Diane Setterfield weaves together folklore, magic, myth, and good old tall tales as she unfolds this mystery. But beyond the questions that arise about the little girl, this book tells other stories as well, revealing long-held family secrets, regrets, recriminations, and suspicions.This is a dense book with a lot of characters. It took me a little while to get everyone straight in my head, because there are a few narratives unfolding at once. While I usually read really fast, the pacing of this book was a little slower, so I couldn't rush through it, and while I felt like it plodded a little bit from time to time, in the end, the pacing worked. If you rush through the story, you'll miss some of the richness of the plot.Setterfield knows how to set a mood, how to create fascinating characters, and how to tease out just enough suspense to keep you always wanting more. Once Upon a River is a special story, and I could totally see it as a television movie or miniseries, because so often the book came to life in my mind's eye.See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.
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  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 Stars rounded up to 5.Thank you to the publisher Atria Books for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.This is a very special and unique book that is one part folk tale, one part mystery and brewed with a touch of the supernatural. It takes place in England long ago astride the Thames River, which looms large in this story.The Swan is a family run pub where the preoccupation is telling a really good story. The best stories take on a life of their own and are repeated and spread amon 4.5 Stars rounded up to 5.Thank you to the publisher Atria Books for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.This is a very special and unique book that is one part folk tale, one part mystery and brewed with a touch of the supernatural. It takes place in England long ago astride the Thames River, which looms large in this story.The Swan is a family run pub where the preoccupation is telling a really good story. The best stories take on a life of their own and are repeated and spread among the townspeople. On one fateful night during the winter's solstice something breathtaking and miraculous occurred at The Swan. A very large man roared as he stumbled into the door, face ravaged with bloody injuries and holding what appeared to be a large puppet of a young girl. Except, it wasn't a puppet. It was a girl of about four, wet from the river...and dead. Then something magical happens. Who is she? Why doesn't she speak? And how can it be that three different families honestly believe this child is their own? This was enough information alone for me to be lured into the tentacles of this book! I've read another fine book from this author, "Bellman & Black", so already knew of Diane Setterfield's exquisite writing prowess, her brilliance in serving up a delicate supernatural flavor. My expectations were set and Ms. Setterfield met them. This is an epic and rich story that will keep you guessing until the end, fraught with emotion, compelling and likeable characters, and an Edgar Allen Poe-like feel. I won't go into too much more detail. as this is a book to be savored on your own.
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  • Marialyce
    January 1, 1970
    A young girl is found, brought to an old local tavern by a man who is both distraught and in need of help. The child appears dead and the man is in such bad shape he can't tell the people what has occurred, where he found this child, or how he managed to pull her from the ice cold water of the Thames. But then the child breathes after life was thought to have left her, and the story is set in motion for a tale with includes the magical, the mystical, folktales of yore, and a journey that takes t A young girl is found, brought to an old local tavern by a man who is both distraught and in need of help. The child appears dead and the man is in such bad shape he can't tell the people what has occurred, where he found this child, or how he managed to pull her from the ice cold water of the Thames. But then the child breathes after life was thought to have left her, and the story is set in motion for a tale with includes the magical, the mystical, folktales of yore, and a journey that takes the reader onto a path of intrigue, suspense, romance, and magic.Another child has gone missing these past two years and her parents have lived a life full of agony at their loss Could this child be their Amalia? Another family with an errant older son feels that this child could be his daughter, Alice, their granddaughter. Then there is Rita, a nurse, who doctors both the child and the village. Is this child the daughter of her heart? What about the man, the photographer, who pulled the child from the water? What does he feel and see in this young girl? Still there is another woman who, although she is in her forties claims, this four year old is her lost sister. How can that be?Then there is the child. She seems ethereal, never speaking, seeming to be birthed from folktales of long ago, a child of the water in which she was found. She is the child they all want and yet will she ever belong to any of them?I absolutely loved this atmospheric tale of love, loss and what happens in the in between. Having read and loved Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, I was ever so anxious to read this one. I was not disappointed as Ms Setterfield wove a tale that was magical, atmospheric, and otherworldly. It managed to entrance me and pull me into its mystical yet eerie presence. I definitely recommend this story if you love books that build upon the spiritualistic and the imaginary nature of all tales handed down through the years.Thank you to Diane Setterfield who kept me entranced, Atria, and NetGalley for providing a copy of this mesmerizing story.My reviews can also be seen here: http://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpress...
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  • Kaceey - Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    3.5* A captivating story that will take you on a journey.A stranger walked into the local inn late one night, soaked, still dripping from the cold river. In his arms he’s cradling a child, motionless. Everyone rushes in to assist. The stranger is close to death and the child, already gone. The owner of the inn sends for the village nurse. She tends to the unconscious man and only then confirms the girl’s death. But something doesn’t feel right to her. Suddenly her trained intuition is correct…as 3.5* A captivating story that will take you on a journey.A stranger walked into the local inn late one night, soaked, still dripping from the cold river. In his arms he’s cradling a child, motionless. Everyone rushes in to assist. The stranger is close to death and the child, already gone. The owner of the inn sends for the village nurse. She tends to the unconscious man and only then confirms the girl’s death. But something doesn’t feel right to her. Suddenly her trained intuition is correct…as the child begins to stir.Everyone in the village comes forth, almost like a pilgrimage, to witness this possible miracle. And to claim the youngster as theirs. So who is this mysterious child? And how did she ever end up in the river, only to be rescued by a stranger?Diane Setterfield writes a beautiful story filled with magic and mystery. Though at times it was a bit too far out of my comfort zone, I hope you enjoy it and allow yourself to be taken down that river.A buddy read with Susanne!Thank you to NetGalley, Atria and Diane Setterfield for an ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Felicia
    January 1, 1970
    This is the most long winded book I think I've ever read. It's been a long time since a book has given me feelings of dread every time I picked it up.Although I've never read a book by this author, I was nonetheless excited to dive into this one based on the rave reviews for not only this book but for Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. Not every author and/or book is for everybody and this one was certainly not my glass of chocolate milk. While the prose is without a doubt prolific, the story cr This is the most long winded book I think I've ever read. It's been a long time since a book has given me feelings of dread every time I picked it up.Although I've never read a book by this author, I was nonetheless excited to dive into this one based on the rave reviews for not only this book but for Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. Not every author and/or book is for everybody and this one was certainly not my glass of chocolate milk. While the prose is without a doubt prolific, the story crawled at an excruciating pace with pages and pages of descriptive text. Some have commented that the prolonged details are necessary in the telling of the story, I humbly disagree. There are a ton of characters in this story and while they are all fleshed out to the nth degree, I didn't care about or relate to any of them.There is a lot of magic, as well religious undertones in this story, both of which turned me off immediately as I tend to steer clear of those subjects. I realize that I am in the tiniest of minority of people that feel this book fell way short of expectations while most every other reviewer fell in love with this book. I do not discourage readers from picking this one up for that reason alone.2 Stars for the writing ⭐⭐I was provided an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    Everyone has a story, and the regulars at the ancient The Swan inn on the Thames are no exception. They drink, swap tales, jest, and repeat. But, one night, a haggard man collapses on the threshold, the corpse of a small girl in his arms.Only, she wakes up.The questions and, with them, the stories swirl. Who is she? How did she get there? Why do three sets of people separately feel they know her? And do the answers come down to science or magic or something else entirely?Much of the success of t Everyone has a story, and the regulars at the ancient The Swan inn on the Thames are no exception. They drink, swap tales, jest, and repeat. But, one night, a haggard man collapses on the threshold, the corpse of a small girl in his arms.Only, she wakes up.The questions and, with them, the stories swirl. Who is she? How did she get there? Why do three sets of people separately feel they know her? And do the answers come down to science or magic or something else entirely?Much of the success of this novel stems from the use of a large cast of characters. The reader’s focus, like the rushing water in the ever-present river, is never in one place for too long. Helena and Anthony Vaughan hope the girl is their daughter, kidnapped two years prior. Robert Armstrong, a Black farmer, assumes the girl is his absent son’s daughter. Lily White, surely in her forties, claims the girl as her sister. Through it all, Nurse Rita Sunday and photographer Henry Daunt, juggle between the factions, investigating and aiding, while their own stories complicate. Each section contains riveting, high-stakes, and sometimes even playful wordcraft and plot-play at its finest.At the novel’s core is the conundrum of the child, and this alone would be enough for a healthy book. However, author Diane Setterfield’s prose twists and turns, but always moves with the current. The multitude of plotlines are never overwhelming, and the result is a fully realized world that’s easy to dip into. She guides readers across scenes like an expert ferryman, a twinkle in her writing. She knows how both the story and the trip will end but understands it’s really the journey that’s important. Just when you feel you know where you’re going—Ah, look! Another turn up ahead.Special mention must be given to the folklore, myths, and magic which are abundant. The novel takes place on the cusp of change, right at the dawn of Darwinism. Rita opts for scientific reasoning in the face of mysticism and folktales. These two worlds are most interesting when complicated by each other. In many ways, assuming this were all true (and, really, aren’t all stories based in some truth?), this places the events of Once Upon a River as perhaps the first of tales somewhere between fairytale and science story. At the beginning, readers are introduced to the inn regulars who constant opine on the art of the story. Diane Setterfield deftly suggests everyone has a story, and we should all be thankful she shares hers.Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.Review also posted at https://pluckedfromthestacks.wordpres...
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  • Calvin
    January 1, 1970
    We've all heard the expression, when discussing old Hollywood films, that "they don't make them like they used to". Well, Diane Setterfield is here to tell you that they don't write them like they used to either. It's been a while since her last novel (the somewhat underwhelming Bellman & Black), so you'd be forgiven if Setterfield wasn't at the forefront of your mind. But when Once Upon a River hits the shelves in January 2019, that is very much going to change. This is an old fashioned, be We've all heard the expression, when discussing old Hollywood films, that "they don't make them like they used to". Well, Diane Setterfield is here to tell you that they don't write them like they used to either. It's been a while since her last novel (the somewhat underwhelming Bellman & Black), so you'd be forgiven if Setterfield wasn't at the forefront of your mind. But when Once Upon a River hits the shelves in January 2019, that is very much going to change. This is an old fashioned, beautifully written and constructed book with so many elements and layers it easily bears repeat reading. The main narrative drive of the book is derived from the injured stranger who bursts into an inn on the bank of the Thames one night, with a dead child in his arms. When the child comes back to life a few hours later, three distinctive plot threads spin out from there. However, there are so many other characters, threads, moments and subplots the book is teeming, nay bursting, with richly detailed characters and minutiae. And those are all wonderful to read but when one seemingly throwaway moment returns to deliver an emotional gut punch, then you realise just how masterfully Setterfield has created this world and its inhabitants. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book and rather than devour it in a couple of days, as has been my 2018 wont, I made it last a full month, as I simply didn't want it to end.
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  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    DNF. Too much magical realism and a fable-like quality to the writing. I do enjoy the genre on occasion but this is not the right time in my life to have the patience for it. I have too much going on.Perhaps I will try it again at some point in the future.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    This couldn’t be less than a 5 star read. If you ever wondered what superlative historical fiction, superlative storytelling looked like, then you need not look any further. This book follows the ebb and flow and rhythms of the river and the people who live by its sides. A wonderful story of the supernatural, of treachery, of wrongs set right, of bereavement, love and loss.I read The Thirteenth Tale a long while ago and wasn’t bowled over by it. This seems much better, but I am now wondering whe This couldn’t be less than a 5 star read. If you ever wondered what superlative historical fiction, superlative storytelling looked like, then you need not look any further. This book follows the ebb and flow and rhythms of the river and the people who live by its sides. A wonderful story of the supernatural, of treachery, of wrongs set right, of bereavement, love and loss.I read The Thirteenth Tale a long while ago and wasn’t bowled over by it. This seems much better, but I am now wondering whether I need to go back and read it again.Recommended.
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  • Phrynne
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a pleasure to read. I loved the atmosphere the author created with rivers, rain and floods, old waterside inns, folk tales and unexplained mysteries. All just wonderful!It is a book to read slowly and carefully because there are a lot of characters to keep track of and the author constantly drifts off into side stories which are all equally interesting and deserve constant attention. The story winds as much as the river it describes. The central tale is the mystery of the drowned c This was such a pleasure to read. I loved the atmosphere the author created with rivers, rain and floods, old waterside inns, folk tales and unexplained mysteries. All just wonderful!It is a book to read slowly and carefully because there are a lot of characters to keep track of and the author constantly drifts off into side stories which are all equally interesting and deserve constant attention. The story winds as much as the river it describes. The central tale is the mystery of the drowned child who is recovered from the river and whether she is Ann, Amelia or Alice, but so much more goes on beside.Diane Setterfield writes beautifully and she creates the perfect historical feel to the characters and their way of life. There is magic in it too which fits in well - I loved the idea of Quietly, the boatman who rescues people from the river and helps them home unless it is "their time" when he will see them over to the other side. A book I will remember and easily worth five stars.
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  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful storytelling! A lost girl, about four years old, turns up at the Swan inn and tavern by the Thames river in 1887. At first thought to be drowned, she revives but is wordless. Who does she belong to? Several people raise a claim: The wastrel oldest son of a black gentleman farmer. An abused woman who lost her younger sister many years ago. A couple whose two-year old daughter was kidnapped two years ago.Like the river that is the fluid, adaptable symbol for this Victorian-era story, thi Beautiful storytelling! A lost girl, about four years old, turns up at the Swan inn and tavern by the Thames river in 1887. At first thought to be drowned, she revives but is wordless. Who does she belong to? Several people raise a claim: The wastrel oldest son of a black gentleman farmer. An abused woman who lost her younger sister many years ago. A couple whose two-year old daughter was kidnapped two years ago.Like the river that is the fluid, adaptable symbol for this Victorian-era story, this tale meanders at first, but gains force as it flows toward its compelling conclusion. A diverse cast of unusual characters, some tragedy, a mystery and a little magical realism spice up the plot. Full review to come. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the review copy!
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 I just loved this book and it’s cast of characters!There is an Inn along the river called the Swan, where storytellers gather to drink and spin their magic tales on cold winter nights. One night, in walks a terribly injured man carrying a dead little girl. There are a few possibilities of who she could be.Some magical occurrence seems to take place regarding the girl, she’s actually alive, when previously thought dead by the local midwife/nurse.This story took me on a journey filled with mag 4.5 I just loved this book and it’s cast of characters!There is an Inn along the river called the Swan, where storytellers gather to drink and spin their magic tales on cold winter nights. One night, in walks a terribly injured man carrying a dead little girl. There are a few possibilities of who she could be.Some magical occurrence seems to take place regarding the girl, she’s actually alive, when previously thought dead by the local midwife/nurse.This story took me on a journey filled with magic, love, hardship, and a sense of peace also about when our time here is up.Recommended!!
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  • Bam
    January 1, 1970
    I thought this book was so well written with elements of folklore and even a touch of Dickens. Setterfield is quite the storyteller! On the evening of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, several regulars are gathered in the Swan on the Thames in Radcot where stories reign supreme. Suddenly the door opens, letting in a cold draft, and every eye turns to see who'd be coming in so late. A tall, strong man with a monstrous, bloody face stands there and in his arms appears to be a lim I thought this book was so well written with elements of folklore and even a touch of Dickens. Setterfield is quite the storyteller! On the evening of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, several regulars are gathered in the Swan on the Thames in Radcot where stories reign supreme. Suddenly the door opens, letting in a cold draft, and every eye turns to see who'd be coming in so late. A tall, strong man with a monstrous, bloody face stands there and in his arms appears to be a limp waxen puppet. As the man begins to bellow and sway, the patrons spring to life and grab hold of his burden before he slumps to the floor in a dead faint. To their shock, they discover his burden is not a doll at all but the lifeless body of a 4-year-old girl. Rita, the local nurse, is summoned and her tests also prove the girl is dead so the poor little thing is laid out in an outer building while Rita sees to the man's horrifying wounds. But later, when Rita checks the girl again she detects a slight pulse. She lives! Is it possible she had not been dead at all? Or has she somehow miraculously come back to life? There are three local people/families who want to claim the child as their own. How can her identity be proven for sure? When the wounded man recovers enough to speak, he can only say he found her lifeless body in the river. As one would surmise, the river Thames plays a major role in the story with all the folktales the people tell, such as about the ferryman named Quietly who is said to rescue the unwary who fall in or, if it's their time, carries the unfortunate to 'the other side.' The characters just spring right off these pages, with a mixture of good, evil and possibly insane. I enjoyed how the various stories spin around each other and tie together nicely in a satisfying way at the end. The story is both mystifying and entertaining. I received an arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. I wish to express my gratitude for the opportunity.
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  • Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    Storytelling at the Swan is the favorite past time of the crowd and the reason so many men stop by for their drinks.One night the storytelling became real when a man who had been hurt and a small girl who appeared as if she had drowned fell through the inn’s front door.Then a miracle happened....the girl came alive again. The townspeople and their storytelling ways had many questions, and some thought the girl was one of their own who had passed.We follow the characters as they try to interpret Storytelling at the Swan is the favorite past time of the crowd and the reason so many men stop by for their drinks.One night the storytelling became real when a man who had been hurt and a small girl who appeared as if she had drowned fell through the inn’s front door.Then a miracle happened....the girl came alive again. The townspeople and their storytelling ways had many questions, and some thought the girl was one of their own who had passed.We follow the characters as they try to interpret what happened as we are treated to Ms. Setterfield’s beautiful, poetic, descriptive style. And...we can’t forget the character, the Thames River....it is a part of everyone’s lives and what the story line revolves around.The ending of each character’s story made the statement....”Something is going to happen,” and something definitely did. ONCE UPON A RIVER beautifully and slowly unfolded as the mystery of the little girl was revealed and as we learn about the lives of the characters.If you enjoy a Gothic theme, and a story line with intriguing as well as odd characters, ONCE UPON A RIVER should be a book you will enjoy. I do have to say it was a bit long, but Ms. Setterfield's marvelous storytelling skills make you want it to go on even longer especially once the mystery is revealed and you find out more about the characters. 4/5This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Ariel
    January 1, 1970
    Diane Setterfield has long been one of my favorite authors and her new novel does not disappoint. ONCE UPON A RIVER was everything I hoped it would be. Magical and mysterious and full of mayhem. Beautifully written (it seemed like I underlined every other sentence) and emotionally resonant (I cried several times). It is the story of three missing girls and three desperate families, set against the Thames, and just as meandering and wondrous as the river itself. One of its main characters--Robert Diane Setterfield has long been one of my favorite authors and her new novel does not disappoint. ONCE UPON A RIVER was everything I hoped it would be. Magical and mysterious and full of mayhem. Beautifully written (it seemed like I underlined every other sentence) and emotionally resonant (I cried several times). It is the story of three missing girls and three desperate families, set against the Thames, and just as meandering and wondrous as the river itself. One of its main characters--Robert Armstrong--has become one of my top three fictional men of all time. Once again Diane Setterfield has delivered a true reading experience. Simply put, it is a joy to read.
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  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    January 1, 1970
    New book from the author of The Thirteenth Tale! The publicist offered me an ARC, and I'm excited for this one, just from knowing it's from the same author. :)
  • Sepani
    January 1, 1970
    So beautifully written.The story captivated me from the beginning because of the authors amazing writing skills. The book was flowing in a slow phase with a detailed account on each characters' background. This tale is a mix of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery and magic which was coordinated in a successful manner.
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  • Robin Bonne
    January 1, 1970
    This has been a very hard review for me to write. There is no doubt in my mind that Diane Setterfield is a fantastic writer. Her prose is beautiful, elegant, and whimsical. The words and sentences were a joy to read just to read them. But...Despite how lovely the writing was, the actual story left me bored out of my mind and I struggled to want to pick this up off my nightstand. If this had not been an ARC that I had to review, it may have been a DNF. The plot never grabbed me. A child being res This has been a very hard review for me to write. There is no doubt in my mind that Diane Setterfield is a fantastic writer. Her prose is beautiful, elegant, and whimsical. The words and sentences were a joy to read just to read them. But...Despite how lovely the writing was, the actual story left me bored out of my mind and I struggled to want to pick this up off my nightstand. If this had not been an ARC that I had to review, it may have been a DNF. The plot never grabbed me. A child being rescued from a river is an element that seems exciting, but it never led to a satisfying story, which was a little ironic since the theme of this book is storytelling. The ARC galley I received is beautiful. The cover, marketing, and stellar reviews are hyping this up to be a big book once it is released. I know that many, many people are going to love this book. Don’t let me discourage you from picking it up to decide if you like it for yourself. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for mailing me a lovely ARC copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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  • Selena
    January 1, 1970
    An amazing and captivating story. An absolutely beautiful and magical work of story telling. The story takes place in a small English village located near the Thames River. A young girl, who they believe is dead, is pulled out of the river. They carry her body to the local inn, when she suddenly revives. The girl is not able to speak so the villagers don't know who she is. Who is she? Several of the people in town are convinced she is their family/relative as each of them has lost a family membe An amazing and captivating story. An absolutely beautiful and magical work of story telling. The story takes place in a small English village located near the Thames River. A young girl, who they believe is dead, is pulled out of the river. They carry her body to the local inn, when she suddenly revives. The girl is not able to speak so the villagers don't know who she is. Who is she? Several of the people in town are convinced she is their family/relative as each of them has lost a family member who mysteriously disappeared. You soon find that each character in the book is connected somehow. We soon learn that other character in the book have also lost a child. By the end of the book, the reader comes to learn the real circumstances behind each child’s disappearance and how they are all linked together. I fell in love with the writing and the characters and was quite sad when the book ended as I wanted the story to continue. I received a free e-copy of Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield from NetGalley for my honest review.
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  • Juli
    January 1, 1970
    One cold winter night, all of the regulars are gathered at The Swan, a tavern near the Thames, to tell stories, drink, gossip....the usual. But this night is going to be anything but the usual. An injured man stumbles through the door and collapses to the floor. In his arms he carries a dead child....a little girl of about four years old. The local healer woman is called to tend to the man. When she goes to have a look at the corpse of the little girl, she finds her definitely dead. But, then... One cold winter night, all of the regulars are gathered at The Swan, a tavern near the Thames, to tell stories, drink, gossip....the usual. But this night is going to be anything but the usual. An injured man stumbles through the door and collapses to the floor. In his arms he carries a dead child....a little girl of about four years old. The local healer woman is called to tend to the man. When she goes to have a look at the corpse of the little girl, she finds her definitely dead. But, then....either by magic or otherwise....the little girl comes back to life. The mystery of the little girl has a deep effect on many. How did she come back to life? Who is she? And, what happened to them that night?This book reads like a magical fairy tale. I love Diane Setterfield's writing style! The tale is really many stories within the story, as villagers try to piece together who this little girl might be. There are lots of characters in this story, but unlike most character driven books, it doesn't bog the story down. Everything unfolds in its own time. Bit by bit all sorts of secrets are revealed. I read this book a chapter at a time, letting the story build slowly over a few days. Setterfield is quite the story-teller! She also wrote The Thirteenth Tale and Bellman & Black. Reading Once Upon a River makes me want to re-read her other two novels! And I'm eagerly awaiting her next book as well! **I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Atria Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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  • Navidad Thelamour
    January 1, 1970
    DNF @ 15%I had really high hopes for this book going in, because who doesn't love a good adult fairy tale, right? But, ultimately, I found that the writing just didn't interest me. (view spoiler)[The big happening, upon which the entire novel is based, happens fairly early on in the novel, and it failed to wow me or even approach tickling my imagination. (hide spoiler)] There's nothing specific that I would critique about Diane Setterfield's writing; it just wasn't for me. I think it was a littl DNF @ 15%I had really high hopes for this book going in, because who doesn't love a good adult fairy tale, right? But, ultimately, I found that the writing just didn't interest me. (view spoiler)[The big happening, upon which the entire novel is based, happens fairly early on in the novel, and it failed to wow me or even approach tickling my imagination. (hide spoiler)] There's nothing specific that I would critique about Diane Setterfield's writing; it just wasn't for me. I think it was a little too plain for me. This novel had the air of sitting at the knee of a 19th century British grandmother's knee as she she knits a scarf and tells the kiddies a story. While I'm sure many will love that style of writing and storytelling--that simple life, folksy feel--for me, it could barely keep my attention. For that reason, I will not rate this book. FOLLOW ME AT: The Navi Review Blog | Twitter | Instagram
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    This gothic mystery is sooo good, engaging from beginning to end. Setterfield is a gifted writer, intertwining the most interesting characters with imaginative magical elements.So much to love. Tall tales including those of river gypsies and a ghostly ferryman who is said to save people in trouble on the river, a mystery surrounding an angelic child proclaimed dead by drowning but miraculously brought back to life and a curious attraction for everyone, foreboding last words in chapters that read This gothic mystery is sooo good, engaging from beginning to end. Setterfield is a gifted writer, intertwining the most interesting characters with imaginative magical elements.So much to love. Tall tales including those of river gypsies and a ghostly ferryman who is said to save people in trouble on the river, a mystery surrounding an angelic child proclaimed dead by drowning but miraculously brought back to life and a curious attraction for everyone, foreboding last words in chapters that read “Something is going to happen” kept me in suspense. Thanks to Atria Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Fantastic!
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