Book Review and #Giveaway: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield



“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, internationally bestselling author of Circe and The Song of Achilles

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From the instant #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “eerie and fascinating” (USA TODAY) The Thirteenth Tale comes a richly imagined, powerful new novel about how we explain the world to ourselves, ourselves to others, and the meaning of our lives in a universe that remains impenetrably mysterious.


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 everyones. 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.

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Diane Setterfield is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth Tale, and a former academic, specializing in twentieth-century French literature, particularly the works of Andre Gide. She lives in Oxford, England.

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Atria Books Hardcover | 480 pages | December 4, 2018

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My ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review:

Several years ago someone suggested The Thirteenth Tale to me and my love of reading and quality writing was reignited. When I heard Diane Setterfield had a new book coming out in 2018 I knew I’d have to get my hands on a copy!

Once Upon a River is an impressive story. It’s magical and lyrical in a way that reminds me of Elizabeth Kostova’s style of writing. The passage of time seemed to slow down while I was transported to The Swan and several hours later, I finally was able to extricate myself mentally.

The story of a little girl mysteriously brought to life travels from town to town. Everyone seems to have a claim to the girl who is mute. There are many characters and I found it helpful to keep notes. Each story is sad and it’s hard to see the grief from each family.

This book must be read slowly and be savored. Preferably on a winter night, sitting by a fireplace. There is a message to this story and one that will stay with me for a long time.

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