Book reviews

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield – Book Review


A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.


The book begins with an injured stranger arriving at the Swan Inn with a body of a young child. Who are they ? This then becomes the sole topic of conversation between the regulars of the Inn, and the events become a story, one to be shared growing more marvellous with each retelling.

The characters are all so well written, encompassing human nature in all its glory. The river Thames is described as a character itself with power and magic at its core and the writer uses quite a few watery terms in her descriptions of characters too. 

Although this is set in a time of scientific discovery, anything that cannot be immediately explained is deemed magical or supernatural and this makes for a wonderfully creative story. The final chapters are breathtaking and moving and comes to a satisfying end. I loved it and can see this being a must read.

I would like to thank the Author/the Publishers/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review




published by Random House 17 Jan 2019

2 thoughts on “Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield – Book Review”

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