Book Review for ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield

ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ ☕
My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A beautiful, rich, and otherworldly tale.

There are few authors I can honestly say I crave their books for their unique storytelling as well as their master of the craft of writing. Diane Setterfield is on this short list. Her ability to weave together a gothic tale filled with heart, magic, and eloquently written prose is awe inspiring.

Book Review for ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield

ONCE UPON A RIVER blew me away. In truth, the book is about family and the loss of a loved one. The three young girls who have gone missing are at the core of this complex and remarkable tale. However, as the reader delves deeper into the world the author carefully constructed, it is easy to see there is much more going on. The richness and honesty brought to light through the characters and their interactions will leave you spellbound.

I have so much love for this book. It is easily one of my favorites by the author as well as one of my top reads for the last few years. Enchanting me with her words and drawing me in with her distinct storytelling, Setterfield has written a book which has it all. The hint of romance, the incorporation of family drama, the addition suspense, and the magical lore surrounding the river all work seamlessly together for the perfect read.

Reviewer Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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.

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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.


Book Details:

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (December 4, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0743298071
ISBN-13: 978-0743298070

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