Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield is an adult fiction novel with an almost magical feel.
One dark and gloomy night, in an old inn on the edge of the river Thames, a drowned girl came back to life.
And so begins a year long mystery. Who is this little girl, so infatuated with the river? She doesn’t speak and sadness seems etched in her bones. How is it she survived after lying frozen and seemingly dead for hours?
Is it a miracle? Science? Fate?
When the girl is claimed by three different parties, these questions will be more important than ever.
I went into this book knowing that the pace would be slow. This is very important. Do not expect a quick read with lots of action. No. This is a book that builds slowly, it pulls you in and wraps you up in it’s mystery and wonder. Once Upon A River felt like someone was telling me a story on a cold winters night, with the lights dimmed and a fire keeping things warm and cozy. And I really enjoyed it.
I loved how the foundation of this book was built with story. The Swan is known for it’s storytellers and the story of the little girl passes from ear to ear, changing with each telling. The Swan itself felt like a small town, where everyone knows everyone business and gossip is ones bread and butter.
As with most folktales, and this book definitely had a folk feel, you are never quite sure whether or not there is a magical element to the story. It feels that way and yet, one could explain away much of the “magic.” I loved this about the story. Is Quietly a real person or just an idea? Some swear he is, some swear he isn’t. But by the end of the tale you are left wondering.
This was just a lovely read. Everything tied up nicely and you really felt that the story had come full circle by the end. This one gets 4.5-5 stars from me.
That’s all for now!