- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (4 December 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743298071
- ISBN-13: 978-0743298070
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.3 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
#2,18,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #9491 in Historical Fiction (Books)
Once Upon a River: A Novel Hardcover – Import, 4 Dec 2018
|Hardcover, Import, 4 Dec 2018||
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“I was completely spellbound by this book. Numerous strands of the same story are skillfully woven into a magical web from which I, as a reader, had no desire to escape. Setterfield’s prose is beautiful, dark and eerily atmospheric, and her rich cast of characters convincingly illustrate the best and worst of humanity. Utterly brilliant!” (Ruth Hogan, internationally bestselling author of THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS and THE WISDOM OF SALLY RED SHOES)
“Once Upon a River is a delight, just marvelous. I devoured it in gulps.” (Jo Baker, internationally bestselling author of LONGBOURN)
“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, critically-acclaimed author of DISCLAIMER)
"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, author of I WAS ANASTASIA)
“Setterfield fills this richly layered plot with a fascinating cast of memorable characters who weave in and out of each other's lives.” (Booklist)
"The heart of the story are the relationships that twist and turn, as if they also follow the river." (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
"Setterfield masterfully assembles an ensemble of wounded, vulnerable characters who, nevertheless, live by the slimmest margins of hope--hope that springs from family, from the search for meaning, from people's decency to strangers, from the belief that truth heals and sets one free . . . Celebrates the timeless secrets of life, death and imagination--and the enduring power of words. Fans, rejoice!" (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
"This probing inquiry into human nature is also spooky fun." (Vulture, "6 New Books You Should Read This December")
"This enchanting book from the author of The Thirteenth Tale is filled with folklore, romance, suspense." (Bustle, "The 8 Best Fiction Books Coming Out In December 2018")
"A mosaic of modern folklore." (InStyle)
About the Author
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.See all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This fantastic story begins at the Swan, an inn located on the bank of the Thames. (Or perhaps it isn’t the Thames?) We do know it is the night of the winter solstice but we don’t know what year. You see, everything is deliberately a little vague as in any good fairy tale or myth; its meaning and relevance being universal and timeless.
When we start the book we soon learn the good folks at the Swan all love to tells stories, with each person trying to outdo the other. Their night is interrupted when an obviously large but injured man falls into the Swan carrying a lifeless little girl.
The very skilled and beloved nurse Rita is called in to help. She is able to stitch up and save the man but the little girl seems dead. But then, surprising everyone, it turns out she isn’t.
I don’t want to give much more away; it’s so much better and more fun finding out what happens next as the author intended - but I will say that there are several people in the village and just beyond who have an interest in this little girl and believe she belongs to them. Their motivations often as confusing to us the readers as it is to them. Most of these people are of good heart and most all seem to love her.
It is only at the end that most of our questions are answered.
I took over a week to read this book - I normally would read it in a day but I was so in love with it that I would read a few chapters and stop; it’s that good and I didn’t want it to be over. Whenever I picked it up and started reading I was completely transported to this mythic, wonderful place populated with the most wonderful characters. I didn’t want to leave, at the same time I desperately wanted to know what happened next,
It’s not important for me to have to like a character to like a book, but in this case you find yourself rooting for and caring about so many of them. Each character is so three-dimensional and the dialogue so spot and and often funny. Quirky in the best way.
The story itself is marvelous, but it’s the wonderful prose that makes this book one of my favorites. I have dog-earred so many pages (if I threw it across the room I think it might fly) because I thought certain sentences or descriptions were so clever and evocative. I know a lot of people write well, but this was exceptional and I am definitely going to go out and read her earlier books.
Just an example of the writing - a description of the landlady of the Swan, followed by a passage that may give you a feel for the otherworldly essence of the book:
“Margot was a handsome woman in her late fifties. She could lift barrels without help and had legs so sturdy, she never felt the need to sit down.”
“There are stories that may be told aloud, and stories that must be told in whispers and there are stories that are never told at all. The story of the marriage of Mrs. and Mrs. Armstrong was one of these latter ones, known only to the two parties to whom it belonged and the river. But as secret visitors to this world, as border crossers between one world and another, there is nothing to prevent us sitting by the river and opening our ears; then we will know it too.”
I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is so filled with heart and wonderful characters - even the river becomes one. Every once in a while, when I finish a book and turn the final page, I will clutch the book and experience a “reader’s high” for lack of a better phrase. It’s the most wonderful feeling and I got it with this book.
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.
What I really didn't like about the book was the numerous instances of domestic violence against both women and children. I realize the author was trying be authentic in terms of the frequency of such acts given the setting (1800s England). Still, it was extremely hard to read over and over again about multiple characters being abused. Sometimes these were just passing references and other times more detailed accounts. If this is something you find triggering, don't read this book.