Once Upon A River

Once Upon A River

A Novel

Book - 2018 | First Emily Bestler BooksAtria Books hardcover edition
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When the seemingly dead body of a child reanimates hours after arriving at an ancient inn on the Thames, three families try to claim her.
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 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 riverbank 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? Three families are keen to claim her: the wealthy mother of a kidnapped daughter missing for two years; a farming family sure it is their son's secret daughter; a parson's housekeeper, reminded of her younger sister. Each family has 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, this novel will sweep readers away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting them through worlds both real and imagined. -- adapted from jacket.
Publisher: New York : Emily Bestler Books/Atria, [2018]
Edition: First Emily Bestler BooksAtria Books hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780743298070
0743298071
Characteristics: 464 pages ; 24 cm

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a
atchfive
Aug 26, 2019

Exceptional writing. Takes you on a journey back in time with great character development and story telling. It took me awhile to truly appreciate it but by the end I was so thoroughly absorbed and involved. And what a surprise ending.

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EljayJohnson
Jul 20, 2019

There is no way I should have liked this book. Lots of nature, hunting, fishing, skinning muskrats, living off the land, backwoods folks, and birds. My favorite things (not)!

However, I loved it. Margo Crane is a heroine to remember. I felt like I was in a dream as I read this book; that's how transported and swept away I was. Margo is a river wild child who the men in her life are always trying to define. They even rename her: Maggie, Nymph, Margaret Louise, etc. They rape her, love her, abandon her, attempt to change and control her, but she finds her own way on her own terms. The only person who accepted her for who she truly was makes it possible for her to live her own life, a gift Margo knows how to appreciate. The writing was exquisite, the story unique, and the characters unusual and fascinating without being unbelievable. This was a great start to the new year. It's going to be hard to top.

i
INVS
Jul 13, 2019

Oh yes, this is so worth the meandering, just like the unnumbered paths of the Thames. I suppose some readers find it dull, so it seems one might be a 'fan' of Setterfield or not. The only thing that could have made it better for me - the audiobook, read by Jack Davenport. this is the kind of book I love to give up my time for, to put off anything else, it will stay with me for ages. While reading this I thought of my enjoyment and often read books by Rutherfurd or Pillars of the Earth, with loved stories of Britain, history.

This book caused me to take notes, get out the map of Britain, go to websites for reference; it made me remember tales of mudlarks that comb the Thames at low tide; her comments about the unaccountable items tossed or lost into the river over centuries. Setterfield can describe a lovemaking scene that far exceeds any from incipit, labored, embellished writings that abound by those whose only object is to titillate. I did not find this 'Gothic' in any manner. One review by IndyPl.... was an excellent synopsis.

This author is excellent with research, then telling the story with intricate detail in ways one might never consider, but she can lead one to investigate further. To venture onto these walking paths is a lifetime experience, much cherished memories.

IndyPL_SteveB Jun 29, 2019

A fascinating new novel by the author of one of my favorite books, *The Thirteenth Tale.*

In the 1870s, there is a tavern on the upper reaches of the River Thames. The Swan at Radcot is especially known for the quality of its storytellers. They have many different stories of local past events, like the long-ago Battle of Radcot Bridge or the mysterious Quietly the Ferryman, who appears to save people in trouble on the River “before their time.” But tonight they will have a story walk into the tavern, a story that will last for years.

A stranger with a bloody face staggers into the tavern, with a young girl in his arms, and collapses. The girl appears to be dead but some time later, she revives. The man does not know who she is; he found her floating in the river after he hit a bridge with his boat. As the days pass, three different families claim the girl. A true explanation will not be simple because everyone has long-hidden secrets. And we don’t know for many pages if we reading a mystery, a family story, or even a ghost story.

Setterfield herself assumes the role of storyteller, as the person who knows the story but who will carefully dole it out, building the tension until the moment of clarity at the end. To do this, she allows each character to tell his or her own story, piling on multiple layers of story like different colors on a painting until the picture is revealed.

I have seen some online complaints that the book is dull, that nothing happens. This is not true, of course. Much happens but it happens quietly. Not every author has to be James Patterson. There is plenty of room out there for the quiet storyteller who slowly pulls you in like quicksand. This book will stick with you a long time.

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esrobbins
Jun 23, 2019

Engrossing story about three missing girls after one comes back. The story unfolds as to who she belongs to and where she came from. The story is well told and pulls you along, like the river at the center of the novel. It is a satisfying story because the end is very satisfying but leaves you thinking about the girl and what she represents.

d
DenisDesautels
May 26, 2019

An interesting tale but did find it a little slow at times. Had to encourage myself to finish the book. The story does wrap it up for all the characters at the end.

JCLMeghanF Apr 30, 2019

Setterfield has created a charming, magical tale that twists and turns much like the river Thames upon which this story is set. Centering around the miraculous recovery of a drowned little girl, the story follows the investigation into her identity, bringing to light many devastating secrets along the way. If you like books with that fairy tale feel, this is one you won't want to miss.

f
finn75
Apr 23, 2019

Brilliant. A tale well spun with great characters, suspense and a wonderful ending, oh and a touch of the supernatural. What more could you ask for?

b
Brontina66
Apr 17, 2019

Diane Setterfield did it again! What an incredible treat this book is! She is truly a master story teller, in the same category of Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Charlotte Bronte. The beginning is simple enough: on a dark December night, a man and a child enter a Victorian inn near the river, the Swan, a place where you go if you want to hear stories. The child is dead, drowned, the man is barely alive. But then things change dramatically: the child comes back to life and, because she is mute, several people start claiming her as their own. But who is she? Why do all these people desperately want her? Well, to know the answer you have to read this incredible book. And don't rush through it: savor every single chapter. You will read about family ties and how they can be betrayed; about an abused woman and about a woman who is instead able to forge her life; about the early development of photography; about incredible villainy and forgiveness against all odds; above all, you will read about the river (that might or might not be the Thames), its dangers, its beauty, and the supernatural creatures who inhabit it and who will carry you on the other side, when your time comes. In brief, this book is a jewel!

ontherideau Apr 08, 2019

Take the hand of this author as she leads you along the river, around bends, over rocks and breaking into tributaries.
"But the words were eggcups and what they were describing was an ocean of absence too vast to be contained in such modest vessels."

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