Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield – Book Review

Title: Once Upon a River (review copy)

Author: Diane Setterfield

Genre/Themes: Historical Fiction, Fable, Folklore, Suspense, Winter Solstice

Blurb from Goodreads

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

My Review

Once Upon a River‘ is a wonderfully languid piece of storytelling from Diane Setterfield, the acclaimed author of ‘The Thirteenth Tale‘.

Setterfield again proves that she is a master crafter of storytelling and completely envelops her reader in her otherworldly version of a group of disparate characters living by the Thames river sometime during the 1800s.

The story revolves around The Swan at Radcot and the events of one winter solstice night when a young girl pulled from the river appears to be dead and then suddenly isn’t…

Establishing her true identity is the main driving point of the story but this is one of those books that is more about the journey than the destination.

It’s a book filled with strange and unusual characters, and how their individual storylines all weave together to create this magical storyline is utterly breathtaking.

The novel is wonderfully atmospheric and I found myself being completely lost in the stories of the characters and was never once bored nor could I predict the ending. I was 100% captivated and thoroughly enchanted.

Once Upon a River‘ is definitely the perfect read for long dark nights and is a story to be truly savoured rather than speedily raced through.

Highly recommended

An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Doubleday/Random House UK Transworld Publishers, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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16 thoughts on “Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield – Book Review

  1. How have I never heard of this book? If sounds so good! Atmospheric, eccentric characters and beautifully woven storyline’s… I have to check this out! Wonderfully written review Emer 💙 Jen


  2. I took this out from the library right after it was published and couldn’t finish it in the week I had it. Completely forgot about it until your review! I love Diane Setterfield so clearly I need to finish Once Upon a Review. Thanks for the review and kicking my butt into gear!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really want to read this book! I was going to buy it a few months back but decided to go for something else, but I’m still very keen to add it to my shelves lol sounds like a wonderfully atmospheric story full of mystery! I’ve also heard great things about The Thirteenth Tale and it sounds just as great! Wonderful review, Emer 😃

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha unfortunately not for me! As it’s now becoming summer in Australia, the winds are getting warmer, so the temperature is getting even hotter 😅 I’m so jealous of everyone who gets to experience the autumn season! I love cold weather so much more than warm haha

        Liked by 1 person

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