Once Upon a River

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

This is a wildly entertaining book that's just a well-written, entertaining story. It really emphasizes the importance of people and stories in life.
Was this review helpful?
I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I really enjoyed this novel. The language and descriptions of people and places was fantastic. Once I sorted out all of the different characters, and their back stories, it was interesting to see how everything tied together. This is a story about 3 or 4 different families suddenly coming together in a time of miracles and tragedy. There is a really cool supernatural component as well which adds to the mysticism. Beautifully written.
Was this review helpful?
The story Diane Setterfield has crafted weaves together vividly with many memorable characters and questions that drive the story forward. Instead of inviting readers to simply imagine the town in the story, readers are given the chance to hear, smell, and see the story through small meaningful details.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you for the free review book, Atria and NetGalley. I've seen reviews that call this a slow read, but it fast-paced read for me. There was a lot going on that was all connecting back together. It made me want to keep going to see how everything fit. This was a dark story full of fantasy mystery. If you find it slow, it's worth sticking with it to see the beautiful story unfold. I haven't yet read the The Thirteenth Tale, but I picked up a copy because I liked this one so much. If you like Katherine Ardern and Helen Oyeyemi, you would probably enjoy this book too.
Was this review helpful?
It took me forever to read this book and by now, I know slow-paced books are not my favorite which is probably why I rated it 3 stars based on my enjoyment. This book came out in December of last year and yet, I still had to read and review this ARC until now. 

The mystery in this story is what kept me going and I was actually curious to see everything resolved. After a while, I became invested and I loved how everything wrapped up. It was a beautiful, well-written book. 

Overall, I really liked the story but I wish it would have taken me less time to read it. Also, magical realism isn't my favorite genre so there is that. 

(Thank you for letting me read and review an ARC via Netgalley)
Was this review helpful?
Setterfield delivers yet again with this newest work. Just as in her previous novel, The Thirteenth Tale, Setterfield weaves a complex plot into a masterful story. It combines magic and wonder, folklore and myth, into a beautifully suspenseful and intriguing tale. The reader will be transported into a land full of deceit and wonder. The book is truly captivating and is a must read for anyone who loves to get lost in a tale.
Was this review helpful?
"Along the borders of this world lie others.
    There are places you can cross.
    This is one such place."

Once Upon a River is a story somewhere between historical fiction and magical realism. On the bank of the Thames at Radcot, there was an inn where the locals liked to tell stories. One dreary evening, a stranger brings in a girl who appears to be dead, yet hours later returns to life, miraculously. Word spreads, and soon the mute girl has three families keen to take her in as their own lost daughter, granddaughter, or sister.

The author definitely has a way with words. Her writing was very ethereal and set the mood for the entire book. However, this book did seem to drag on a bit, much like a meandering river. I thought it would be more exciting with more magic (at least magical realism), but it fell disappointingly short. That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable read – because it was – but it wasn’t as enthralling as I was hoping it would be.

I will say it was interesting because, as an outside observer of the future, things the characters in this time took as magic (e.g. psychiatry, someone coming back from the dead, photography, etc.) are actually well-explained scientific (or otherwise) phenomena today. Just as an aside.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4 because I enjoyed this slow, yet atmospheric, book, and I look forward to reading more from Diane Setterfield in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley, BookishFirst, and Atria Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
When three little girls go missing and one little girl shows up half drowned in a river - three families want to claim the girl as their own. But the mysterious nature of her appearance leaves no one sure of their claims. This beautiful gothic-style novel is slow and winding. And while I can't really say it ever 'picks up' in the pace the story is worth the slow read. The Thirteenth Tale by this same author is probably one of my favorite books of all time - so that is worth a read too! It's the perfect book to get lost in on a cold winter day. (please note, I was given a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review)
Was this review helpful?
Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgally for review purposes.

I don't knowwww... *Heavy sigh*

The writing was great and it really felt like I was reading an old fairy tale, but i, for one thing, couldn't get into it. It seemed slow and drawn out, a lot of fluff. The story at the heart of it was definitely good and intriguing but the direction it went in (or didn't go in?) Was really disappointing for me. You invest so much time and energy into this big detailed book and there's no pay off. It was kind of exhausting.

But that being said I love fairy tales and the writing was solid it just was a miss for me.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately as much as I enjoyed the thirteenth tale I could not get past chapter 5 in this book. The story unfortunately did not capture my attention and make me want to continue
Was this review helpful?
Where do I begin? This book is a beautiful work of art that you will continue to think about long after the last page. The writing is gorgeous and I love the complex relationships in the book--- if you love complicated family stories, this is one for you!
Was this review helpful?
Beautiful atmospheric story. This is the first Diane Setterfield novel I have read but will not be the last. Putting more on my tbr now.
Was this review helpful?
I was so excited to read this book, it was my first Diane Setterfield book and I hated it so much. I thought the writing was quite dull and pretentious, it just felt like the writing style was trying too hard to be magical and folktale like. I was so disconnected from all of the characters, and there were a lot, and I did not care about the plotline at all. This seemed like everything I should have loved in a book but it was delivered terribly. I will not be picking up another book by Diane Setterfield and I'm very sad about this. I have read reviews on her other novels and it seems her writing is just not for everybody.
Was this review helpful?
This was quite enjoyable as a sort of "slice of life" novel about the a small English village in the mid-1800s. Author Setterfield clearly did a lot of work to get the historical details right; her characters and setting really come alive. I was sorry to say goodbye to them at the end -- which, based on the last sentences, means Setterfield's job was well done!

I didn't care for the magical realism aspects so much, unfortunately. Although it's at the very heart of the plot, with the "magical river child" affecting everyone around her, the magic often came off as too twee for the darker bits. This book has some happiness and light, but also plenty of death and violence (the latter especially towards women). The balance just felt off to me somehow, and I think it was down to the magic.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! What a ride! Once in a while, there comes a book that engages you in every way and this was this book. It has been a long time since I've enjoyed the actual storytelling this much. Fantastic and magical
Was this review helpful?
One of my new favorite books! This author has such a way with words the pages flew by in no time! I can’t wait to see the next work by this author! This was such a joy to read!
Was this review helpful?
I adored The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield so much that since I read it years and years ago, I still feel the need to caress it fondly when I see it in a book shop.

What? You don't do that. It's totally normal. Apparently.

Anyway, when I saw that she had finally released a second book, I was very excited to read it and even more so when it was chosen as a book club book. The only thing better than reading a highly anticipated book is reading it along with a group of friends and then discussing it at length over dinner.

Once Upon a River is set in late nineteenth century England in a pub called The Swan that has been a part of the community for decades upon decades. It is known as a great gathering place when one is in the mood to hear, or tell, a story. One night as the stories get started and the regulars are on a roll with their words and their bar tabs, a man bursts through the door in such an injured state no one would be able to recognize him if they even knew him, which they don't. More confusing still is the lifeless little girl he carries in his arms. Or seemingly lifeless. When she is revived hours later, a new story begins to grow around her circumstances that will outlive them all.

I was really excited about this book, and parts of it were wonderful, but I struggled with it. It moved slowly and was often overly wordy. Distinct and seemingly unrelated storylines wove together, then came apart, and then sometimes rewove into what was occasionally a tangled mess. Details that received a spotlight of focus were later forgotten. The character list was so long and scattered that I often forgot who was whom. I was disappointed not to enjoy this book more and perhaps my expectations are partially to blame, but not completely.

I do admit that I find myself less patient, less willing to move into a book for a long period of time. It may just be a phase brought on by my towering TBR pile, but if a book doesn't move, and move me, I grow frustrated. Maybe you will have more patience and will like this book more than I did.
I certainly hope you do.
Was this review helpful?
This book was an engaging read that had me intrigued until the end.  I loved the characters and how the story tied up nicely in the end.  Setterfield is a master world builder.  I like to read for setting and this one clicked all of the boxes.
Was this review helpful?
If you’ve read and enjoyed Setterfield’s work before, you will love this book. If you HAVEN’T read Setterfield’s work before, this is as good a place as any to start. Coming back to the familiar theme of the power of stories, Once Upon a River will pull you in and make you feel a part of this tale as it unfolds around you. I’ll definitely be picking up a copy for my physical shelves.
Was this review helpful?
Magical Realism? Yes
Great Characters? Yes 

This is the perfect book for Winter on a cold night with some coffee or hot cocoa in your hands while you read a few pages and that's all you have to know about it. Period!! 

"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."

*Thank you to the author and Netgalley for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review*
Was this review helpful?