• Sarah

Thoughts On Once Upon A River

'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' (Once Upon A River: Diane Setterfield).

'There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner, Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.' (Once Upon A River: Diane Setterfield).

**Trigger warnings: Child abandonment and abduction**


On a dark winters night an injured stranger walks into a ancient inn filled with locals with a child in his arms who has drowned. Later that night, the child returns to live. The story unfolds as the characters try to establish who are the parents of the child? Where she came from and what happened to her.

What others have said

"A story, no matter how cleverly it is structured, lives or dies on the vividness of its characters. Setterfield, a true storyteller, makes us care about all her players in this beguiling novel." -- The Times.

"Exploring themes of storytelling, parenthood, science and society on the cusp of change, this is a richly evocative novel." -- Observer.

"Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, came out in 2006 to wide acclaim. She made her mark by delivering her own take on the classic romantic mystery novel, infused with the spirit of Jane Eyre, Rebecca and The Woman in White. Once Upon a River continues to demonstrate her mastery of the Gothic genre in a way that will appeal to modern readers...Setterfield knows how to make the words sing. It is worth taking a journey down the Thames with her." -- Independent.

What did I think?

I really wanted to like this book but to be honest I just didn't get it!! It was the second read of my local book group and was recommended to one of the members by the local bookshop. I felt really positive given that it had so many positive reviews but I think it just really passed me by.

Some of the language used by Diane Setterfield is really beautiful and she is very talented at painting a picture. When I first started the book, I took the position that it was quite 'woo' and how folklore was brought into the story was really interesting and added to the narrative, however, after about a third of the way through, I have to admit I changed my tune.

By about the third of the way through I have to say I was bored and had become annoyed by the 'flowery' language as it felt like it had become a substitute for story-line movement. However, I ploughed on as I had been adamant that I would finish and I did but I have to admit by the end I didn't really care about what actually happened. That is probably a good thing as I have to admit I can't actually remembered what happened (although I did read the book in April but I am normally good at remembering).

You may like this book if you like folklore and I suppose its quite poetic but sadly it was not for me. Its very rare that I don't finish a book and I managed to battle through but have to admit I don't think it was worth it.

The rating

Star rating: 2* (out of 5)

Will I read it again?: I don't think this will be much of a surprise - No.

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