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Once Upon a River

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  52,643 ratings  ·  8,338 reviews
From the instant #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “eerie and fascinating” (USA TODAY) The Thirteenth Tale comes a “swift and entrancing, profound and beautiful” (Madeline Miller, internationally bestselling author of Circe) novel about how we explain the world to ourselves, ourselves to others, and the meaning of our lives in a universe that remains impenetrably ...more
Kindle Edition, 496 pages
Published December 4th 2018 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books (first published December 2018)
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Mommooshka I would not recommend it for a young teen. Although many descriptions are not overly graphic, it contains scenes with sex, arousal, rape, physical abu…moreI would not recommend it for a young teen. Although many descriptions are not overly graphic, it contains scenes with sex, arousal, rape, physical abuse, beatings, and bullying to control another person through fear.(less)
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)

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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  52,643 ratings  ·  8,338 reviews


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Emily May
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
...more
Regan
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this!!
Julie
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is a 2019 Atria/Emily Bestler Books publication.

A deeply mysterious, hypnotic and fantastical Gothic yarn!

Nearly a century ago, on Winter Solstice, folks assembled together at ‘The Swan at Radcot’, a local inn, where they plan to spend the evening swapping stories. But, suddenly, a stranger comes staggering in, half drowned, carrying a young girl, who appears deceased. However, when the local nurse is called to the scene, she discovers the child is breath
...more
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
UPDATE: In Audible US sale until end of Sept I think

It’s so beautiful





It was wonderful and magical and I loved it!! That’s all that matters!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾





Happy Reading!
...more
Chelsea Humphrey
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Felicia
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Debra
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Angela M
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mary Beth
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Paromjit
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is an ode to rivers and a celebration of the imagination and art of storytelling set in the Victorian era around the local communities living in Oxford next to the Thames. Once upon a time in an ancient inn, The Swan, where storytellers are revered beyond measure, an injured stranger bursts through its doors, falling down unconscious clutching the corpse of a drowned young girl. The dead girl comes to life, afflicted by a muteness, sparking a desire in othe ...more
Amalia Gkavea
‘’Around Radcot they grow the watercress, harvest it, crate it up and send it to the towns in barges, but they don’t eat it. It’s bitter, they complain, so bitter it bites you back, and besides, who wants to eat leaves nourished by ghosts?’’

Diane Setterfield has already written one of the most intriguing, haunting novels of our times. The Thirteenth Tale is the beautifully strange love-child of ...Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, its Gothic atmosphere and the dialogue faithful to the vision
...more
Phrynne
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-books
This was such a pleasure to read. I loved the atmosphere the author created with rivers, rain and floods, old waterside inns, folk tales and unexplained mysteries. All just wonderful.

It is a book to read slowly and carefully because there are a lot of characters to keep track of and the author constantly drifts off into side stories, which are all equally interesting and deserve constant attention. The story winds as much as the river it describes. The central tale is the mystery of the drowned
...more
Diane S ☔
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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 eventual
...more
Candi
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
"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 with lived experience, the dead and the living brush against each other in their comings and goings, and the past and the present touch ...more
Susanne  Strong
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Peter
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tributaries
Once Upon a Thames (River) is a beautiful story of mystery, family and community, wonderfully coloured with the art of storytelling, not only in relation to the novel itself but the celebrated pastime of locals in the story at The Swan in Radcot near Oxford. The historic Thames is the anchor in the story and the theme of water flows throughout the novel. A river that one moment “helpfully turns a wheel to grind your barley, the next it drowns your crop.” A river that sees the silent f
...more
Beata
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
So many reviews by my GR Friends have praised this wonderful novel that it seems needles to write how beautiful Once Upon a River is ........ I aboslutely loved the way the stories are told and all the magic around them. The characters were all around me as I listened to Juliet Stevenson, who is one of my favourite Audible readers. The storytelling is art and Ms Setterfield took me on a delightful tour for which Iam grateful and which I will remember for a long, long time. If you are going to re ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

A lost girl, about four years old, turns up at the ancient Swan inn and tavern by the Thames River in 1887, on the night of the winter solstice. An injured man staggers into the inn, holding the apparently drowned girl in his arms, and promptly collapses. When the local midwife and nurse, Rita, arrives, she privately confirms that the girl is not breathing and has no pulse, though she mysteriously has no sign of drowning or other injury. But a few minute
...more
Norma
3.5 stars! Charming, atmospheric & lyrically written!

This was an extremely hard review for me to write because my thoughts are so conflicted with how I actually feel upon finishing this book. I thought the storytelling and the writing was absolutely fantastic but I was never able to fully immerse myself in this tale though. At times I was finding myself a little bit bored with my mind wandering often and at other times I was excited and in awe of what I was reading.

ONCE UPON A RIVER by DIANE S
...more
Larry H
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Karen
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5
I just loved this book and it’s cast of characters!
There is an Inn along the river called the Swan, where storytellers gather to drink and spin their magic tales on cold winter nights.
One night, in walks a terribly injured man carrying a dead little girl. There are a few possibilities of who she could be.
Some magical occurrence seems to take place regarding the girl, she’s actually alive, when previously thought dead by the local midwife/nurse.
This story took me on a journey filled with mag
...more
Miriam Smith
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Diane Setterfield's bestselling novel "The Thirteenth Tale" was made into a recent television drama and this wonderfully crafted book "Once Upon A River" is her third and latest fabulous offering. I haven't read anything by this author before but I will be seeking out her previous books, after absolutely devouring and loving this compelling story based on folklore, romance and suspense. Magic realism at its best!
As I started to read this hugely atmospheric tale, I honestly felt I was sitting by
...more
*TUDOR^QUEEN*
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Holly  B (semi-hiatus until Jan)
A story that completely transported me to the Swan, a vintage inn on the Thames River.

"The dead girl lived again."

And the story, the mystery of the little girl, and those who would claim her as their own....began.

This is a book that needed my full concentration to appreciate. I wanted to find a quiet reading spot and was able to just get "lost" in the weaving and turning and telling of the tale. Reminiscent of a dark fairy tale, blended with folklore, and mystery.

A book for those who want to
...more
Christopher
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 2018
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
...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

A lost girl, about four years old, turns up at the ancient Swan inn and tavern by the Thames River in 1887, on the night of the winter solstice. An injured man staggers into the inn, holding the apparently drowned girl in his arms, and promptly collapses. When the local midwife and nurse, Rita, arrives, she privately confirms that the girl is not breathing and has no pulse, though she mysteriously has no sign of drowning or other injury. But a few minute
...more
Yun
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Once Upon a River, on the dark night of the winter solstice, a wounded stranger shows up at an old inn by the river with a dead child in his arms. A few hours later, against all odds, the dead child stirs and is alive again. What follows is a tale of magic, hope, love, redemption, and so much more.

This story reads like a folklore, rich and lyrical. There are many parts to this carefully crafted tale, and they are all woven deftly into one cohesive narrative. I was struck by the richly imagin
...more
PattyMacDotComma
5★
“Drowning is easy. Every year the river helps herself to a few lives. One drink too many, one hasty step, one second’s lapse of attention is all it takes.”


Loved it! A wonderful story of people living along the banks of the Thames, and of mysterious disappearances, love, violence, and neighbours, all held together with stories. Storytelling is an art form that not all can master. Young Jonathan tries to learn how by listening to his father, Joe, and the other regulars at the Swan, Joe’s inn. Th
...more
Virginie *No more time to write reviews for the moment :( *
I'll keep it short, because it was a difficult book for me to rate (the writing was so beautiful, but I didn't feel as enthralled by the story as I thought I would).

Pros: the magical realism, the lyrical and beautiful writing, the historical setting, the mystery around the little girl.

Cons: too long descriptions, pace too slow, not enough endearing characters (except Mr Armstrong, who really touched me by his kindness towards animals and his love of his family).

I know I'm in the minority with my
...more
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4,782 followers
“…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
...more

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If we need a paperweight, we're grabbing a hardcover. Otherwise, we're big fans of paperbacks. They're the lighter, less expensive option—the...
57 likes · 19 comments
“And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world you came from. This river, which is and is not the Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to?” 42 likes
“It was better to tell such stories close to the river than in a drawing room. Words accumulate indoors, trapped by walls and ceilings. The weight of what has been said can lie heavily on what might yet be said and suffocate it. By the river the air carries the story on a journey: one sentence drifts away and makes way for the next.” 30 likes
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