Once Upon a River

Diane Setterfield
Apr 29, 2020

Fairy tales are often dismissed as stories only for children, but I've never been able to stop reading them, even as an adult.  C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote, "Some day you will be old enough to read fairy tales again."  These types of stories are ones I turn to again and again, whether they be new tales or the dark, Grimm originals.  I especially love historical novels that incorporate fairy tale elements - which is why I was so excited when I heard about the new book by Diane Setterfield.

Set in a small English town on the river Thames, the story centers around a local inn, The Swan, and a mysterious accident that happens late one midwinter's night.  A wounded man bursts into the inn carrying the body of a little girl.  Although she appears to have drowned in the river, the child revives hours later and rumors start to fly about her identity and her miraculous, almost magical, recovery.  Is she the missing daughter of locals or a descendant of the mythical ferryman that is said to transport the dead across the river to the afterlife?  The child herself seems otherworldly, mute and refusing to answer questions.  As the mystery deepens, stories of the past and the girl's identity intertwine, and many secrets about the town's inhabitants are revealed.

Much like the river itself, this tale has twists and turns, and also a few parts where it slows down and lets the characters journey at their own pace.  If you like stories that have that folklore feel, Once Upon a River is definitely one you'll want to check out.  Curl up with this book and a cup of tea and prepare to be swept away.

Reviewed by Library Staff