Sunday, November 25, 2018

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

What They Say.....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.

Those who dwell on the river bank 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? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many 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, the beginning of this novel will sweep you away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting you through worlds both real and imagined, to the triumphant conclusion whose depths will continue to give up their treasures long after the last page is turned.

What I Say.....I loved Diane Setterfield's first two books, especially The 13th Tale.  Her last book, Bellman & Black was published in 2013, and since I hadn't seen anything else, this author just kind of faded from my mind.  But when I started reading the description of this book, I was taken in just by that and didn't even realize it was Diane Setterfield until I was studying the front cover.

This was very different from her other books, and really unique reading.  When a girl is found in the river, brought to a local inn by a stranger, who himself is severely injured, it would seem that he either belongs to her, or that someone in the village would know who she was.  It's not everyday that a toddler just goes missing.  

But apparently in this village, there are multiple toddler girls missing or unidentified.  The little girl can't or won't speak and doesn't seem to be particularly drawn to any of the families.  So who does she belong to?  Who should she belong to?  No one in the village can agree on these questions.

This book read like it was being drawn by a very talented storyteller.  It actually made me feel like I would have preferred to hear it on Audible, if it had the right narrator. And I've NEVER said that about any book.

This is a book to curl up with under a blanket on a cold day.  You'll think about it long after it's over.

Current Goodreads Rating 4.23

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