Title: Once Upon a River
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Emily Bestler Books 2018
Rating: 5/5 stars
Reading Challenges: Random TBR Pick; Popsugar - Based on folklore; Dancing with Fantasy and Scifi - Uncommon Fantasy Creatures
On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.
Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.
Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.
I finally got Diane Setterfield’s new book and loved every single sentence of it. Setterfield’s writing meanders just like the Thames, but I savored every turn. We follow a beautiful yet haunting story of three lost girls who may or may not have come back. The lives of three families are affected by the events of the Winter Solstice. We spend the next year following those families and the various characters around the village. My favorite storyline was following Rita as she tends to the people around her, especially the little girl lost. This is not the book for those readers that love a fast moving plot. But it is for those that love a haunting story that may or may not have magical elements. My absolute favorite part was the legend of Quietly. Perfection!
Next up on the TBR pile: