Book Review: Once Upon A River – Diane Setterfield

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 lifeless 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.

Once Upon A River is an intriguing read and I’m really pleased to have picked this up for book club and that I was able to discuss with with a group of people because this is the kind of book you will want to talk about the whole way through, there’s a lot to cover.

I will admit that in the beginning I wasn’t sure about who everyone was, their part in the story it can be quite confusing pulling all the threads together and I did have to go back. That said, I actually ended up loving the fact that so many strands ended up coming together in the end and it added to the mystery element of it all.

While it might sound strange, the pace of the plot felt like it followed the path of a river. Some parts were slow and winding while you felt that other parts were rushing through and you couldn’t stop reading. It was an incredibly clever way to write and I give props to the author.

This is the kind of novel that creates a lot of theories. I was chatting and debating with my friends about who the girl was, where she came from, who I wanted her to be. I was immersed in this mystery and while the ending wasn’t what I expected I can understand it.

I think my favourite character of the whole book was the midwife of the town – she was incredibly interesting and her use of science and love it was a welcome addition to a book that is full of folklore and whispers of magic. It’s impressive how the author was able to combine these aspects.

I gave this book 4 stars. I think it’s a good read, but it does take a little bit of getting used to particularly in the beginning. I feel that it’s worth it and most of the people I’ve spoken to agree!

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