Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

This book has been all over the place.  For months now, I have seen this gorgeous cover on book lists, ads, and recommendation sites.  There is a reason-it’s just as good as everyone is saying.

Once Upon a River is a story of family, hope, and very dark secrets.  It begins in a small inn set on the banks of the Thames. Full of villagers and drinkers, the inn is the center of storytelling and local history for the area.  And gossip-so much gossip. When a large man enters the inn holding a large puppet the entire inn is left in a state of silent shock. Before the large man collapses to the ground, the puppet is placed in the arms of the son of the inn’s owners.  But it’s not a puppet-it’s a young girl who is very clearly dead and no one knows who she is.

But she’s not dead, and the girl-who-was-dead-but-is-no-longer is about to bring together a seemingly unconnected group of people.  There is the wealthy couple who live down the river and lost their only child two years before. A woman living in a lodging house and takes part in a scandalous profession.  The successful farmer with his large family and loyal animals. The unwed woman who cleans for the parson. The town midwife and healer who declares the little girl alive and knows instantly that she belongs with her.

There is little that can be said about this book without spoiling all of the amazing twists and turns.  It took a bit for me to get in to the story but once it clicked, I couldn’t put the book down. Who is this little girl?  Why did everyone think she was a puppet or a doll? Was she dead? Why does everyone want to be around her? So many questions in this book and there is an answer for all of them.  

The river is a huge part of the story and is written about so beautifully that it feels alive and like it’s a character itself.  There is history and magic but maybe the magic is just the effects of all the pain and struggle that the characters go through or maybe it’s real and it was there all along.  It’s an absolutely beautiful book and I absolutely loved it.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is available December 4, 2018 from Simon & Schuster.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book-all opinions are my own.  

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