Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Title: Once Upon a River

Author: Diane Setterfield

Pub Date: December 4th, 2018

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

View on Goodreads


Synopis from Goodreads:
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 is uniquely crafted mystery story set by the river Thames. The story starts and ends during the winter solstice in the Swan, an inn known for storytelling by the husband of the innkeeper and its guests. A wide range of characters is brought together when a mysterious man comes to the inn with a gush on his face and a lifelike doll in his hands. The doll turns out to be a four-year-old girl that was dead but during examination by a local nurse miraculously comes back to life.

The folklore and mystery of the night the girl appeared to carry out the whole book and give readers reason to keep reading. I appreciated those aspects, as well as the beautiful writing style of the author, but I didn’t end up loving the story. This seems to be an unusual opinion among dozens of raving reviews. The characters although interesting, never came to life. The reader is kept at a distance, and remains an onlooker, not a participant in the story. I never felt rush of emotions, I didn’t cheer some characters or vigorously disapprove of other’s actions. The characters left me indifferent, which doesn’t make a story that will hold my heart. I might be too immersed in the modern world and contemporary of futuristic literature to appreciate the 19th century Britain and its people, with the common sense marriages and unemotional romances.

Honestly, there isn’t much I can write about this book, it was interesting to read, it had its moment but at the end left me wanting more. I never felt connected to the characters, or even immersed in the story. It definitely is a unique book with a mysterious and picturesque plot, but it’s not something I will ever love.

The story will be loved by fans of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue which I liked at the time, but now I have different feelings towards this book.

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