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Once Upon a River: A Novel by Diane…
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Once Upon a River: A Novel (edition 2019)

by Diane Setterfield (Author)

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1,7021277,861 (4.05)126
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… (more)
Member:Jemalu
Title:Once Upon a River: A Novel
Authors:Diane Setterfield (Author)
Info:Atria/Emily Bestler Books (2019), Edition: Reprint, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
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Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

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English (126)  Spanish (1)  All languages (127)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
I found the story a bit long and boring. Listened to the audiobook and got lost at various points along the way due to my own distraction, but overall I didn’t find the story intriguing. ( )
  jcoleman3307 | Oct 7, 2021 |
This was a book I really was not sure about. I picked up The Thirteenth Tale last year, and never made it past the first chapter. Goes to show, you should always give an author a second chance!

Such a lovely meandering road (or river!) Diane Setterfield took us down. It is Winter Solstice at The Swan, a little tavern on the banks of Thames. This is the sort of place "where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came." Nothing fancy, a place where the men hang out until the wife comes to take them home-and every now and then (more often than that) they tell stories. This particular night, a stranger crashed through the door, something wrapped in his arms....and the journey begins.

I loved the the way Settterfield introduces characters vaguely, so you wonder "what happened to that person" and then chapters later, they are there again and it all comes together. Each and every character had a defined place in this story and I loved all of them.

I shied away from 5 stars because there are some among my reading friends who might not like it. I am glad I waited for the hype on this book to calm down-I went into it cleared headed and open-minded and I enjoyed it thoroughly. ( )
  JBroda | Sep 24, 2021 |
She did it again, folks. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
A story about storytelling and water and rivers. Diane Setterfield does a great job of weaving lots of watery words into her narrative without drowning us. I enjoyed the book and the final combining of the all threads at the end. Highly recommend. ( )
  Neale | Sep 19, 2021 |
A tale told of a community who live by the river in a time before cars, radio or entertainment of any kind other than the stories that are told after a few drinks at the local ale house. The characters are richly developed and we come to learn of the sad loss of three small girls in the community. When the river brings one such small girl to the village, all are sure she is their lost girl. ( )
  wagnerkim | Jul 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
It’s an understatement to say that the river is a character in this novel. It is more a god — powerful, changeable, violent and mysterious.... Setterfield firmly establishes this novel in the Gothic suspense genre for which she’s known, where all things commonplace become strange.....Once Upon a River is concerned with the borderline between science and magic. Changelings, underwater goblins, mermaids and ghosts are credited with causing unexplained events, making this novel feel far enough removed from real life to be a comforting read.

Setterfield is a master of the medium. Like the river at its core, her plot twists and turns with ease and confidence, and her writing is beautiful.The story she tells — and which her characters retell — is as vivid as the old folktales and real histories that inform it.
 
Diane Setterfield haunts familiar ground in “Once Upon a River,” an eerily mystic tale of a mute child who captivates the local townspeople after she’s seemingly brought back from the dead....These characters are finely drawn and wholly sympathetic, their lives rendered in precise, poignant detail. The female characters particularly are gifted with uncommon clarity, each of a different kind. Rita is a woman of science, Helena has strong emotional instincts, Bess is blessed with insight and Lily takes an unflinching view of practical realities.....Though Setterfield writes emotions with marvelous truth and subtlety, her most stunning prose is reserved for evocative descriptions of the natural world, creating an immersive experience made of light, texture, scent and sensation....The novel’s central mysteries are dispatched in one dramatic scene that feels overwrought, especially given that this is not a tightly plotted whodunit so much as a story for those who appreciate the tale’s telling as much as its end — who mark with interest the bends in the river, and who will treasure the friends they bump into along the way.
 
Once Upon a River takes more than a few pages to begin properly, even though it kicks off with a promisingly dramatic event that electrifies the regulars at the Swan, a riverside inn in Oxfordshire renowned for the quality of its storytellers...The novel then diverts its unhurried attention to three plot tributaries of its own. One concerns a prosperous mixed-race farmer with a wayward adult stepson; another, a landowner whose marriage has withered after the kidnapping of his two-year-old daughter; the last, the fearful, half-simple housekeeper for the village parson. Very gradually, the story takes shape around the claim each of these parties makes on the girl...The primary characters are all good people, drawn in bold strokes without much shading; the influence here seems more Dickens than Brontë, albeit without the comic brio..... It cannot be called a page-turner, certainly not in the order of the previous book, yet ultimately it is a success..... Setterfield... serves you bread and cheese, but it is very good bread and cheese, the sort of meal that is often more satisfying than fancier stuff. Once Upon a River is a hearty paean to the Thames and the people who live on or near it, whose stories never truly begin or end, but flow on for ever, to a dimly imagined sea.
 
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Epigraph
Along the borders of this world lie others. There are places you can cross. This is one such place.
Dedication
To my sisters, Mandy and Paula. I wouldn't be me without you.
First words
There was once an inn that sat peacefully on the bank of the Thames at Radcot, a day's walk from the source.
Quotations
As is well-known, when the moon hours lengthen, human beings come adrift from the regularity of their mechanical clocks. They nod at noon, dream in waking hours, open their eyes wide to the pitch-black night. It is a time of magic. And as the borders between night and day stretch to their thinnest, so too do the borders between worlds.
It was better to tell such stories close to the river than in a drawing room. Words accumulate indoors, trapped by walls and ceilings. The weight of what has been said can lie heavily on what might yet be said and suffocate it. By the river the air carries the story on a journey: one sentence drifts away and makes way for the next.
There are stories that may be told aloud, and stories that must be told in whispers, and there are stories that are never told at all.
They were collectors of words the same way so many of the gravel diggers were collectors of fossils. They kept an ear constantly alert for them, the rare, the unusual, the unique.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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

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from the publisher: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.
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