Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Dear Fellow Reader,

Have you ever not been able to remember the plot to a book that you know you read? I had read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and remembered that I thought the book was excellent. Then I noticed that I had read another book by Diane Setterfield entitled Bellman and Black. I had enjoyed that book also but can’t tell you the plot of that book either. (Really, The Thirteenth Tale is good. You should read that book.)

It has been a long time since there has been a new book by Diane Setterfield. Her new book, Once Upon a River has just come out. I was thrilled to get a chance to read it so that I would write an unbiased review. (Yep, I scored it as an advanced reader copy.)

Let me say that Diane Setterfield is a master at setting a dark scene. Even though I don’t remember her other two books that well, I do think that they were both dark. That feeling that the sun never shines in the English countryside. Once Upon a River starts on a dark, stormy night. People are huddled in the Swan, the town’s pub that is known for storytelling. Joe Bliss, pub owner’s husband is known for his storytelling and others compete to try and emulate him.

Suddenly, the pub door crashes open and a man staggers through the door holding a child although at first, no one was sure that it was a real child. The man collapses. The patrons of the Swan run to get Rita Sunday, the local nurse. While some are fetching Rita, the others suddenly figure out that the stranger has a child in his arms. A beautiful, little girl who almost seems to glow. As they check the child, they decide that she is dead. They are horrified but the stranger isn’t responding so they will have to wait to hear his story. They decide to put the child’s body in the cold storage room.

Rita arrives and checks on the man. She tends to his injuries and they check his pockets to see if they can determine who he is. After Rita is sure she has done what she can for the man, she asks to see the child. She goes into the room with the child and starts checking her. Yes, she agrees with the villagers that the child is dead. Suddenly the child starts breathing. Rita is unsettled by this but carries that child out to the pub. The child is cold, so Rita sits down by the sleeping man with the child in her arms. She spends the night that way so that she can tend to both of her sleeping patients should they wake up.

When the man wakes up, he can identify himself, but he does not know who the child is. He found her and saved her from the river. Three people arrive to claim the child. Whose daughter is she really? Is she the long lost daughter of Anthony and Helena Vaughan? Amelia Vaughan had been kidnapped two years before and there had not been a trace of her. Or was she Lily White’s sister? Or was she the daughter of Robin Armstrong? The little girl never speaks and does not seem to show any knowledge of any of the claimants.

The story has wonderful characters who are well drawn. Where did the little girl come from? The townsfolk have stories to tell as they watch the tale unfold. It was an interesting read that keeps you trying to outguess the next plot twist. I recommend this book.

Thanks for reading!

About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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