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Once Upon a River

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,021 ratings  ·  560 reviews
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, su
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published December 4th 2018 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
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Leah Rachel von Essen Reviewing sources such as Netgalley have it. Please do not buy advance reading copies on EBay. It is illegal for people to be selling them, and hurts…moreReviewing sources such as Netgalley have it. Please do not buy advance reading copies on EBay. It is illegal for people to be selling them, and hurts the authors' sales numbers. (less)
Megan Dunagan Yes. It takes place mainly in 1889 (with some bits at the beginning in the 1300's). It's a story that takes place in a few small towns in England. The…moreYes. It takes place mainly in 1889 (with some bits at the beginning in the 1300's). It's a story that takes place in a few small towns in England. The wardrobes and manner of the characters are in line with history. I would also say it has an element of magical realism or fantasy, but it's definitely on Earth in the past.(less)

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Emily May
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Along the borders of this world lie others.
There are places you can cross.
This is one such place.

This is a beautiful story. It's a genre-crosser: something of a historical mystery told like a fairy tale with magical realism. Everything straddles the line between reality and the supernatural, and sometimes it steps over into the fantastical, which might be surprising for fans of Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale.

I think it works really well, though. I should point out that the story is very s
Chelsea Humphrey
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Chelsea by: Leigh Kramer
Shelves: from-publisher
"It was solstice night, the longest night of the year... And as the borders between night and day stretch to their thinnest, so too do the borders between worlds... Unexpected things can happen. Did the solstice have anything to do with the strange events at the swan? You will have to judge for yourself."

As a newcomer to Diane Setterfield's work and hearing what a legend she is in the book community, I was excited and a little bit anxious to see how I would receive her brand of storytelling. I w
Angela M
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was attracted to something that I read about this book which describes an inn where people came to tell their stories. The thought of that reminded me of Canterbury Tales, read many, many years ago in college - about travelers telling their stories. There are many stories here to be told and I was drawn in from the beginning by the descriptive writing of the River Thames, the characters. I was on the river, at the inn and in the lives of this cast of characters. I always hesitate to use the wo ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
On a deep, dark night at an inn located on the Thames river, the regulars have gathered to swap stories, drink and unwind from their days. The evening is like any other night at the inn, until an injured stranger walked in carrying what they believe to be a doll in his arms and collapses. After calling upon the local midwife/nurse, they learn that the "doll" is a young girl. A young girl who appears to be dead after drowning in the river -yet lives!

No one recognizes the man or the child. Word g
Mary Beth *Traveling Sister*
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Swann is an ancient Inn, along the Thames where lots of storytelling is done there. On a dark night someone was telling a story the door opened and a newcomer came in. They were trying to make sense of what they were seeing. They thought it might of been a monster from a folk tale. Once there senses came togethor, they noticed in his arms was a puppet with a face and limbs and painted hair.

The man was unconscious and they put him on a table. They thought he was dead. Margot, the owner of the
Susanne Strong
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddy-read, netgalley
4 Fantastical Stars!

A Tale of Folklore, Legend, Magic and Mystery.

Late one night at a pub called the Swan at Radcot on the River Thames, villagers unwind with a pint, as they often do. A man comes to the door with the body of a cold, lifeless girl in his arms and promptly passes out. He sleeps for days.

Rita Sunday, the town medic, checks them both over. To her astonishment, she soon discovers that the young girl is, in fact, alive.

People come from near and far to see her, including three f
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Storytelling perfection! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I have read nothing like Once Upon a River. A more modern fairy tale? Quite a bit of suspense and mystery…and wonder…and charm…

Once Upon a River takes place in a historic ancient inn on the River Thames in England. This inn is famous for its storytelling and its storytellers, and in fact, when a mysterious stranger with obvious physical injuries incoherently bursts into the inn with a commotion, stories are in the midst of being told. The stranger eventually pa
Diane S ☔
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
4+ A wonderful homage to the art of storytelling. I come from a long line of storytellers, summers when my cousins were led on ghost walks by our fathers and uncles as they told ghoststories. We all loved those times. Stories I made up to tell my children when they were young, and then stories I told my grandchildren. Such fun, pre internet days when stories were magic, or scary, but such a great way to connect.

All along the Thames are a group of inns, each in has a specialty, music in one, art
Larry H
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was a dark and stormy night...

Well, not exactly. But it is a dark night in 1887, the solstice night, the longest night of the year.

"As is well-known, when the moon hours lengthen, human beings come adrift from the regularity of their mechanical clocks. They nod at noon, dream in waking hours, open their eyes wide to the pitch-black night. It is a time of magic. And as the borders between night and day stretch to their thinnest, so too do the borders between worlds. Dreams and stories merge wi
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars rounded up to 5.

Thank you to the publisher Atria Books for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.

This is a very special and unique book that is one part folk tale, one part mystery and brewed with a touch of the supernatural. It takes place in England long ago astride the Thames River, which looms large in this story.

The Swan is a family run pub where the preoccupation is telling a really good story. The best stories take on a life of their own and are repeated and spread amon
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
A young girl is found, brought to an old local tavern by a man who is both distraught and in need of help. The child appears dead and the man is in such bad shape he can't tell the people what has occurred, where he found this child, or how he managed to pull her from the ice cold water of the Thames. But then the child breathes after life was thought to have left her, and the story is set in motion for a tale with includes the magical, the mystical, folktales of yore, and a journey that takes t ...more
Kaceey - Traveling Sister
A captivating story that will take you on a journey.
A stranger walked into the local inn late one night, soaked, still dripping from the cold river. In his arms he’s cradling a child, motionless. Everyone rushes in to assist. The stranger is close to death and the child, already gone.

The owner of the inn sends for the village nurse. She tends to the unconscious man and only then confirms the girl’s death. But something doesn’t feel right to her. Suddenly her trained intuition is correct…as
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is the most long winded book I think I've ever read. It's been a long time since a book has given me feelings of dread every time I picked it up.

Although I've never read a book by this author, I was nonetheless excited to dive into this one based on the rave reviews for not only this book but for Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. Not every author and/or book is for everybody and this one was certainly not my glass of chocolate milk.

While the prose is without a doubt prolific, the story cr
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, netgalley
Everyone has a story, and the regulars at the ancient The Swan inn on the Thames are no exception. They drink, swap tales, jest, and repeat. But, one night, a haggard man collapses on the threshold, the corpse of a small girl in his arms.

Only, she wakes up.

The questions and, with them, the stories swirl. Who is she? How did she get there? Why do three sets of people separately feel they know her? And do the answers come down to science or magic or something else entirely?

Much of the success of t
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We've all heard the expression, when discussing old Hollywood films, that "they don't make them like they used to". Well, Diane Setterfield is here to tell you that they don't write them like they used to either.

It's been a while since her last novel (the somewhat underwhelming Bellman & Black), so you'd be forgiven if Setterfield wasn't at the forefront of your mind. But when Once Upon a River hits the shelves in January 2019, that is very much going to change.

This is an old fashioned, be
Nov 19, 2018 added it
Shelves: netgalley, dnf
DNF. Too much magical realism and a fable-like quality to the writing. I do enjoy the genre on occasion but this is not the right time in my life to have the patience for it. I have too much going on.

Perhaps I will try it again at some point in the future.
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Beautiful storytelling! A lost girl, about four years old, turns up at the Swan inn and tavern by the Thames river in 1887. At first thought to be drowned, she revives but is wordless. Who does she belong to? Several people raise a claim: The wastrel oldest son of a black gentleman farmer. An abused woman who lost her younger sister many years ago. A couple whose two-year old daughter was kidnapped two years ago.

Like the river that is the fluid, adaptable symbol for this Victorian-era story, thi
I thought this book was so well written with elements of folklore and even a touch of Dickens. Setterfield is quite the storyteller!

On the evening of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, several regulars are gathered in the Swan on the Thames in Radcot where stories reign supreme. Suddenly the door opens, letting in a cold draft, and every eye turns to see who'd be coming in so late.

A tall, strong man with a monstrous, bloody face stands there and in his arms appears to be a lim
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Diane Setterfield has long been one of my favorite authors and her new novel does not disappoint. ONCE UPON A RIVER was everything I hoped it would be. Magical and mysterious and full of mayhem. Beautifully written (it seemed like I underlined every other sentence) and emotionally resonant (I cried several times). It is the story of three missing girls and three desperate families, set against the Thames, and just as meandering and wondrous as the river itself. One of its main characters--Robert ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Aug 27, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
New book from the author of The Thirteenth Tale! The publicist offered me an ARC, and I'm excited for this one, just from knowing it's from the same author. :)
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it

Storytelling at the Swan is the favorite past time of the crowd and the reason so many men stop by for their drinks.

One night the storytelling became real when a man who had been hurt and a small girl who appeared as if she had drowned fell through the inn’s front door.

Then a miracle happened....the girl came alive again. The townspeople and their storytelling ways had many questions, and some thought the girl was one of their own who had passed.

We follow the characters as they try to interpret
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing and captivating story. An absolutely beautiful and magical work of story telling. The story takes place in a small English village located near the Thames River. A young girl, who they believe is dead, is pulled out of the river. They carry her body to the local inn, when she suddenly revives. The girl is not able to speak so the villagers don't know who she is. Who is she? Several of the people in town are convinced she is their family/relative as each of them has lost a family membe ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One cold winter night, all of the regulars are gathered at The Swan, a tavern near the Thames, to tell stories, drink, gossip....the usual. But this night is going to be anything but the usual. An injured man stumbles through the door and collapses to the floor. In his arms he carries a dead child....a little girl of about four years old. The local healer woman is called to tend to the man. When she goes to have a look at the corpse of the little girl, she finds her definitely dead. But, then... ...more
Robin Bonne
This has been a very hard review for me to write. There is no doubt in my mind that Diane Setterfield is a fantastic writer. Her prose is beautiful, elegant, and whimsical. The words and sentences were a joy to read just to read them.


Despite how lovely the writing was, the actual story left me bored out of my mind and I struggled to want to pick this up off my nightstand. If this had not been an ARC that I had to review, it may have been a DNF. The plot never grabbed me. A child being res
Sonja Arlow
The Swan Inn is a riverside pub full of tradition, a place where stories are told and retold on cold winter nights. The Swan is owned by Margot Ockwell, married to Joe Bliss - a champion storyteller - and they have raised twelve daughters, each named “Little Margot” by the patrons of the Inn.

The novel begins on the night of the winter solstice where this cosy atmosphere gets shattered by a strange man, severely injured carrying a rag doll. The ragdoll turns out to be a little girl, dead on arriv
Kate Vocke
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is gorgeous, the writing is fantastic, the story is fun and like the fairy tales I loved as a kid, but the journey from start to finish is realllly slow. Like the slowest river current that ever existed. There are a LOT of words, so I hate to think of all the work that goes into writing something so fantastic and then say "it's wordy", but I also imagine I am getting a little less patient with wordy, descriptive books. AND the genre of this one might be a bit out of my comfort zone... ...more
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This gothic mystery is sooo good, engaging from beginning to end. Setterfield is a gifted writer, intertwining the most interesting characters with imaginative magical elements.

So much to love. Tall tales including those of river gypsies and a ghostly ferryman who is said to save people in trouble on the river, a mystery surrounding an angelic child proclaimed dead by drowning but miraculously brought back to life and a curious attraction for everyone, foreboding last words in chapters that read
So beautifully written.

The story captivated me from the beginning because of the authors amazing writing skills. The book was flowing in a slow phase with a detailed account on each characters' background.

This tale is a mix of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery and magic which was coordinated in a successful manner.
bran (brandonthebookaddict)
this sounds something so real and true, yet.....something lost and far away.
that sound though, to me.....
is magic.

I'm all in.
Chris  C - A Midlife Wife
Awesome read!
Trying to gather my thoughts for this review is difficult. This author has such a gift with writing and storytelling that many times I just found myself lost in her gift of prose.

The author is telling a story within a story where you get glimpses of folklore, combined with mystery, history, and even a touch of romance. Her imagination and ability to weave this remarkable story together is really quite amazing. In fact, reading my notes I made as I read, I used the
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Play Book Tag: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield--5 stars + ♥ 12 33 Sep 20, 2018 02:29PM  
Play Book Tag: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield - 5 stars 12 27 Sep 12, 2018 10:00PM  
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“…a mistress of the craft of storytelling.”
The Guardian

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale (2006) was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being ‘a love letter to reading’ as for its mystery and style. Her
“There must be more to stories than you think.” 0 likes
“A curtain was drawn back in every man's inner theater and their storytelling minds got to work.” 0 likes
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