A carefully executed fairy tale about lost girls, found girls, and society’s relationship to the science and magic of these things, Once Upon a River is rife with symbolism that embraces tradition as it simultaneously breathes new and unexpected bodies of life into it. What exactly are the messages we carry about women’s roles in society, and are we able to change those without disrupting the familiar and sacrosanct? If so, Diane Setterfield has done the trick here, and we get to reap the benefits, in pleasurable measures. Recommended By Aubrey W., Powells.com
Although technically a novel, Once Upon a River reads like a fantasy due to Diane Setterfield's magical style of writing. What begins as a tale of a missing girl soon gathers momentum as a period piece unique in its own right. Be prepared to spend a quiet afternoon enveloped in rich prose that'll make you feel like you are right there, on the banks of the Thames. I'm not quite finished with this one, but already know it will be a story I'll return to again and again. Recommended By Alex Y., Powells.com
Truth and imagination run together in this beautiful novel. Diane Setterfield tells a hypnotic story that absolutely begs to be read aloud from a cozy chair by the fire. You will immerse yourself in fantastical mysteries and try — but fail — to guess what could possibly happen next. Recommended By McKenzie W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"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
"A beguiling tale, full of twists and turns like the river at its heart, and just as rich and intriguing." — M.L. Stedman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Light Between Oceans
"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, National Book Critics Circle and Booker Prize winner and author of Being Dead and Harvest
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 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.
“Setterfield fills this richly layered plot with a fascinating cast of memorable characters who weave in and out of each other's lives.” Booklist
"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
“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
“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
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.