Once Upon a Riverby Published 04 Dec 2018
|Once Upon a River.pdf|
|Publisher||Atria/Emily Bestler Books|
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?
Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.
Once Upon a River Reviews
Along the borders of this world lie others.
There are places you can cross.
This is one such place.
This is a beautiful story. It's a genre-crosser: something of a historical mystery told like a fairy tale with magical realism. Everything straddles the line between reality and the supernatural, and sometimes it steps over into the fantastical, which might be surprising for fans of Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale.
I think it works really well, though. I should point out that the story is very slow burn and that's how the whole book unfolds - there's no "aha!" moment when the pace suddenly starts racing. It's a gentle, often sad, story of the magic in the mundane, and the normal in the seemingly miraculous.
Setterfield sets the tale along the banks of a fictional River Thames in an unspecified time that feels a hundred years or so before ours. True to our own history, this time is rife with superstition and folklore, tales of ghosts and fortune-telling. This allows for some uncertainty over what is supernatural and what exists in the minds of superstitious people. Does Bess really have the ability to look into someone's soul and see their true self, or is she just a woman adept at reading people?
I think that's what makes this story so thrilling. The line between our reality and the possibility of the supernatural is a fine one. I love fairy tales that open your eyes to the many "magical" things in our own world.
The story follows many characters and is largely centred around an inn called The Swan. One night, an injured man stumbles into the inn carrying a dead child. A child who sometime later is alive. Not only is this a mystery in itself, but so is the child's identity. Where did she come from? Could she be the missing daughter of the Vaughans who disappeared two years earlier? Could she be the grandchild of Mr Armstrong? The child in question does not speak a word.
The rhythm of the train on the tracks suggested words to his overtired brain and he heard them as clearly as if an unseen person had pronounced them: Something is going to happen.
As with The Thirteenth Tale, Setterfield really emphasizes the power of stories to shape people. The lore believed by these characters plays into their everyday lives, defining them. They are all so well-drawn, living seemingly simple working class lives, but hiding dark secrets and traumas that will, of course, come back to haunt them. Perhaps literally.
This is a gorgeous fairy tale, woven with everything that gives fairy tales their timeless quality. It is a quieter, more grounded in reality version of Katherine Arden or Naomi Novik. The feel reminds me somewhat of 2012's The Snow Child, but with a very different setting and a bigger cast of characters.
Fans of quiet fairy tales about people and (maybe) magic should love this. Warnings for [spoilers removed]
There must be more to stories than you think.
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4 Fantastical Stars!
A Tale of Folklore, Legend, Magic and Mystery.
Late one night at a pub called the Swan at Radcot on the River Thames, villagers unwind with a pint, as they often do. A man comes to the door with the body of a cold, lifeless girl in his arms and promptly passes out. He sleeps for days.
Rita Sunday, the town medic, checks them both over. To her astonishment, she soon discovers that the young girl is, in fact, alive.
People come from near and far to see her, including three families, all of whom claim her as their own. The Vaughns, whose daughter Amelia, went missing two years ago; Lily White, age 40, who believes this girl is her sister Ann; and finally Robert Armstrong, who is positive that she is his son Robin’s missing daughter, Alice Armstrong. This girl is mute and is completely unanimated, except when watching the river, watching and waiting, for what, we do not know.
It is said that the river is known for taking care of its own. For bringing back lost things and saving people from harm. That a man named Quietly guards it, only bringing back those to safety who actually deserve it.
Who is this little girl and to whom does she belong? That is the question. You’ll have to take a trip to the Thames, to find out.
Once Upon A River is a dark, atmospheric novel, layered with folklore, magic, mystery and elements of the supernatural, thus I was immediately swept away by this eerie epic saga. The richness of the characters are multi-faceted and they made this story so very magical. They include: Henry Daunt, the photographer who notices things others do not, Bess Armstrong, who has some very unusual traits, Rita Sunday whose strength everyone relies on and Robert Armstrong, whose heart is as true as his word. Here, Diane Setterfield examines mystical elements: she takes the readers away, and lets us escape to another time and place, to people who have special abilities, some of whom can see into the heart of others, some who may see things that we do not. It depends on whether or not you believe...
This is a novel which includes vivid descriptions, all of which enraptured me with their elegance and their fierceness and simply captured my heart. Once Upon a River has multiple storylines, all of which are interwoven together brilliantly as each and every storyline in this novel falls together in a way I never would have imagined.
What more can I say except that this is a novel to read slowly and cherish. It is a great read for lovers of epic novels, readers who like magical realism and those who like rich character driven novels. Once Upon a River is the first book I’ve read by Diane Setterfield and it won’t be my last.
This was a another buddy read with Kaceey!
Thank you to Meriah Murphy at Atria, NetGalley and to Diane Setterfield for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Published on NetGalley, Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram on 12.2.18.
Will be published on Amazon on 12.4.18.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is an ode to rivers and a celebration of the imagination and art of storytelling set in the Victorian era around the local communities living in Oxford next to the Thames. Once upon a time in an ancient inn, The Swan, where storytellers are revered beyond measure, an injured stranger bursts through its doors, falling down unconscious clutching the corpse of a drowned young girl. The dead girl comes to life, afflicted by a muteness, sparking a desire in others to take her in. Stories of this miracle burgeon, spreading like wildfire, taking on a life of their own, emulating the nature of Chinese Whispers as the lines between reality and fiction blur. Amidst the swirling geography, poetry and spirit of the river, the flow of the Thames encompasses the past, present, and the future.
The Thames is a mighty goddess of nature, the giver and taker of life, generous in offering fertility, wild, capricious, unbridled and dangerous, around which has spawned myths, legends and folklore, such as the ghostly ferryman, Quietly, offering rescue or a trip to the other side. Missing girls, loss, grief, love, scientific research are embedded within this meandering and twisted tale. It is inhabited by goodly folk, alongside those more sinister, existing on the darker side of humanity. Setterfield beguiles and entrances with a novel of life and death, family, pig rustling, fairground trickery, kidnap and murder with a river that exercises its own natural justice. Her storytelling is structured around the central role of storytelling of the characters that vibrates within and revitalises Oxford's communities of this historical period, mirroring the qualities of the river. An astounding, lyrical, stellar and beautiful novel. Many thanks to Random House Transworld for an ARC.
This is the most long winded book I think I've ever read. It's been a long time since a book has given me feelings of dread every time I picked it up.
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.
The Swann is an ancient Inn, along the Thames where lots of storytelling is done there. On a dark night someone was telling a story the door opened and a newcomer came in. They were trying to make sense of what they were seeing. They thought it might of been a monster from a folk tale. Once there senses came togethor, they noticed in his arms was a puppet with a face and limbs and painted hair.
The man was unconscious and they put him on a table. They thought he was dead. Margot, the owner of the inn, laid a feather in his lips and it moved. He was breathing. No one knew him.
Jonathaon put the puppet on his lap. He noticed that the puppets hair was made with real hair and it's ears looked so real. He gave it a shake and the arm swung from its shoulder. Then he noticed it was a little girl. She wouldn't wake up. They thought she drowned and was dead. Rita thought she was four years old. She had no pulse and wasn't breathing. The girl was dead before she went into the water. There was no sign on how she died. After some time the corpse opened her eyes. The girls head moved. Her eyes closed again and they noticed her chest was moving. She was breathing in and out.
What made this girl come alive again? Who does she belong to? Is it a miracle or is it magic? Did it have anything to do with the winter solstice?
This book was so beautifully written. You could just get lost in the prose. I just loved the atmosphere. I love this author and loved The Thirteenth Tale by her, so I just had to read this one. I loved it just as much. I thought this was a character driven novel and thought the characters were well done. I just loved Rita. The book needs to be read slow, there was a little confusion for me, but then all the peices came together and it then becomes a mystery. It is a thought provoking novel. It really makes you think. I thought it was very enchanting and it was very well crafted.
The book is part historical fiction, a little fantasy, magical realism, and mystery. Just a little something for everyone. Even though it has a slow burn to it, I suggest to keep reading it because it gets a lot better. I am so happy that I stuck with it. I highly recommend it, if you don't mind a slow burn.
I want to thank Atria/Emily Bestler Books and NetGalley for the copy of this book t n exchange for a honest review.