Once Upon a River PDF Book by Diane Setterfield PDF ePub

Once Upon a River

4.0314,630 votes • 3,410 reviews
Published 04 Dec 2018
Once Upon a River.pdf
Format Hardcover
Publisher Atria/Emily Bestler Books
ISBN 0743298071

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

Tue, 03 Jul 2018

"It was solstice night, the longest night of the year... And as the borders between night and day stretch to their thinnest, so too do the borders between worlds... Unexpected things can happen. Did the solstice have anything to do with the strange events at the swan? You will have to judge for yourself."
As a newcomer to Diane Setterfield's work and hearing what a legend she is in the book community, I was excited and a little bit anxious to see how I would receive her brand of storytelling. I was blessed beyond all measure to read this alongside dear friend Leigh Kramer, and knew that no matter what the outcome we would have delightful discussions along the way. From the very first page I knew this story would be something special; the lush prose and dreamlike atmosphere were enticing, and Setterfield's gift in speaking directly to the reader drew me in and gripped me like a vice until I turned the final page.
"When the cold river doesn't feel cold, that's when you know you're in trouble."
I've seen some varied opinions of this book, and what I've noticed so far is how, whether feelings of delight or boredom, readers have strong opinions of this story. As someone who was able to go into this knowing that it would be a slow burn from start to finish, I think it gave me the perspective I needed to pick it up at just the right time so that I could let the story guide me gently along, rather than feeling like I had to cram it in and blow through it in a hurried frenzy. For those looking for a fast paced, plot driven mystery, you won't find it here, but for those searching out a unique story tinged with just the right amount of magic to keep you wondering if this story is indeed supernatural, let me introduce you to Once Upon A River.
"All she was left with when she rose stiffly and took her coat off to go to bed was a deep and impenetrable mystery.
OUAR is the type of story that I could spend pages writing about the atmosphere and "feels", but I also want to take a moment to discuss the characters. There is quite a large cast in this book, and it does take a good chunk before everyone becomes familiar and things begin to fall into place and connect. I found myself texting Leigh frequently asking "wait, now who is this again? And who do they belong to in the story?" because she is gifted in keeping up with all of the confusing things in life. I highly recommend finding a Leigh, but you can't have mine. It was interesting to see which characters we clicked with instantly, which had to grow on us, which ones we hated throughout, and how some of our views changed as the story progressed.
"And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world you came from. This river, which is and is not the Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to?"
This book was so wonderful, and I think the author did a fantastic job of portraying a vivid, diverse cast of a small town community in the late 1800's, and I believe my only minor issue was with the way the story ended for one character, Rita. While I can't go into detail here due to spoilers, I was a little disappointed that her personality and morals took a 180 in the very final passages, as she was my absolute favorite character in the book for those reasons. Overall though, there's not much to complain about here. OUAR was the kind of book that makes you believe in rich, traditional storytelling once again, and includes the type of writing that feels somehow elevated from most current publications. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a novel that will sweep you away into a whirl of magic you had forgotten existed since you were a child.
*Thank you Atria Books for providing my review copy.

Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥
Fri, 05 Oct 2018

It’s so beautiful
It was wonderful and magical and I loved it!! That’s all that matters!
Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Happy Reading!

Angela M
- The United States
Fri, 27 Jul 2018

I was attracted to something that I read about this book which describes an inn where people came to tell their stories. The thought of that reminded me of Canterbury Tales, read many, many years ago in college - about travelers telling their stories. There are many stories here to be told and I was drawn in from the beginning by the descriptive writing of the River Thames, the characters. I was on the river, at the inn and in the lives of this cast of characters. I always hesitate to use the word atmospheric because it’s used so often, but in this case it’s the best word I can come up with to describe the feel of this novel.
Something happens at the inn known for story telling, the Swann at Radcot when an injured man and a little girl appearing to be dead show up. Shortly after, Rita, the nurse who could easily be a doctor, is examining the little girl and then she’s not really dead anymore. This is not just the story of the girl, who mesmerizes anyone who sees her. While she is an attraction to many people, she also represents hope to others who have lost a little girl, wanting her to be theirs. Is she the Vaughn’s missing daughter Amelia or is she the Armstrong’s granddaughter Alice or is she Lily White’s little sister Ann who has been missing or will she belong to Rita, who it seems has brought her back to life ? Does she belong to anyone? There is mystery and magical realism and the fairy tale like quality of the girl was reminiscent for me of The Snow Child. I needed to be patient with this one because I felt it was slow at times and maybe a little long. Having said that, the writing is lovely and there are a number of characters to connect with. I loved the ending.
This ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

- The United Kingdom
Sun, 06 Jan 2019

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.

Emily May
- The United Kingdom
Sat, 06 Oct 2018

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 the River Thames in 1887. 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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