Once Upon a River
Book Review - Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
A member of my book club told me about The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, we when were talking about our favorite books. We had considered her second book, Bellman and Black, for one of our book club selections but it got really mixed reviews so we held off. When I heard Once Upon a River was coming out (and getting great advanced praise) I quickly requested a copy. I still haven’t read The Thirteenth Tale, but I can see why my friend is a fan of this author.
I started reading Once Upon a River on the plane to Cabo, Mexico. I often ask authors in my interviews where their favorite place to read is, I think mine might be on planes. A really good book is the perfect way to distract me from the uncomfortably long flights (time flies when you’re reading a good book!) but a flight is also the perfect way to get uninterrupted reading time. The people beside me are usually sleeping or working on their laptops. And since I’m not a big plane talker (you know the type,) opening up a book also keeps people from engaging me in conversation. I’m an introvert, I’m happiest with my nose in a book.
Okay, so back to Once Upon a River. I thought this book was reminiscent of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (click here to see what my book reviews used to look like. Hint: hilariously brief and with no pictures!) Once Upon a River is about a man who enters an inn carrying a child. Once the man enters he collapses, unconscious but alive. The inn owner and the guests check on the man and child and discover that the child is dead, drowned it seems. But some time later, they check again and the child is alive. How can this be? Were the mistaken the first time or has a miracle occurred? But this isn’t even the biggest mystery. The child is recognized and claimed by three different families as belonging to them. 1) A couple claims it is their child who went missing a year ago. 2) A man says it is his daughter who he hasn’t seen since he and his wife were estranged. 3) A woman claims it is her sister who disappeared years ago. Who is this child? Where did she come from? To whom does she belong?
I don’t often read books in the gothic genre, but I think I might need to add this genre to my list of favorites. I really enjoyed reading this book and it was just so…different. The more I read and the more I write about the books I read on this blog, the more I appreciate a book that is unlike anything else I’ve read. This is certainly a different recommendation from me, but I hope you give this one a try and enjoy it as much as I did! You might also discover that the gothic genre is for you!