ONCE UPON A RIVER
BY DIANE SETTERFIELD
Atria Books Hardcover | 480 pages | ISBN: 9780743298070| December 4, 2018 | $28.00
eBook: 480 pages | ISBN: 9781501190230| $13.99
I was lucky to receive an advanced reader copy of Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield this month from Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.
Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield is fantasy, mythology, folklore, and an homage to storytelling all wrapped up in one novel. It is the story of three missing children, and when one is returned under mysterious circumstances, three families are left wanting to claim her as their own. I had never read any of Setterfield’s works before, I had no idea what I was getting into but with words like atmospheric, magical, and fairy tales, being used to describe it I knew that I had to read it.
There are a lot of characters in this book, and they all are interwoven in some ways. Some are there for you to dislike, others like Robert Armstrong and Rita whom you can’t help but love. I also loved how the river felt like it was in itself its own character. Not only did the river guide the story along but it almost seems to react to what is happening in the story, ebbing and flowing with the changes and twist and turns of the story.
One of my favorite aspects of the story was its quiet discussion about grief. Without going too much into it for fear of spoiling anything, all of a sudden we are talking about grief, and the hard ways in which we do and don’t process grief, and I was shocked that I had not noticed it until that point.
At first, I thought this was a book that I was going to fly through, and I think I made an error for the first half of the book in not slowing down as I was reading it. As I started getting towards the middle of the book, I slowed down significantly, I took my time with the prose and the language and let the words wash over me. This book has a river at its center, and just like a river, the turns and courses that it might take and the changing currents, I never knew where this book was taking me. This is a slow burning novel, more character than plot driven, it’s a novel that is worth slowing down and letting the story guide you.
Overall, I wish I had gone into the novel with the awareness that it was a slow burn and not a book that one should devour and binge. Skimming will be your worst enemy when it comes to Once Upon A River, you may realize that you’ve missed something important tucked away in those beautiful descriptions. This is a novel that I would recommend if you’re in the mood for allowing yourself to be swept away in the magic of the river that is and is not the river Thames and if you love rich and traditional storytelling.
And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world that you came from. This river which is and is not the river Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars