Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Thank you to Atria Books and TLC Book Tours for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.
The end of November/beginning of December always feels like its own special sort of magic to me. The leaves are still hanging on, the weather is significantly colder and there is the excitement of the first snows and the holiday season to look forward to. Knowing how important it is to me to read according to my mood (at least during this season of my life) I knew that the perfect story would be one that was a bit of a fairytale, a bit of magic and a setting that would make me want to burrow down deeper under my blanket. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield hit all of those marks!
I haven't read anything by Setterfield before so going into this book I wasnt sure what to expect with her writing or approach to telling a story. But! I just knew by the cover and snippets of reviews I had seen it was going to be worth saving for this special time of year. Once I opened the book and started reading, I couldn't put it down! The atmosphere pulled me in right away (which is my absolute most favorite thing in a story), second only to the sense of a fairy tale the first few pages gives you right off the bat.
What I loved most about Once Upon a River is the theme of storytelling, the way it was woven through the characters and each of their stories. Stories told through dreams, photographs, conversations with animals and stories recited amongst friends...through them we see the importance of these ways of storytelling and how it plays into the greater story. Through this we are also given a different lens each time to view the little girl brought from the river dead then alive. And the question, who's little girl is she?
I love that we met each of the characters, separate but connected to each other, in such a way that they all felt important and necessary. Their feelings and emotions regarding the little girl were so similar, a common thread linking them together through the book. The first twenty or thirty pages had me marveling at the role the river was playing already, its symbolic and then after very literal importance in the events of the story. An author that can give an inanimate object a very real and important role in a story is one of my favorite things! Setterfield wove the river through this story in such a way that you almost don't see it happening, but its there. Always rushing in the background and following the characters in the story. These connections, like a thread weaving the story, quietly brought this story to a place where I just couldn't stop thinking about it. And when it was over, that thread quietly tied its knot in the last few sentences and carefully sent you on your way. What else could that be other than the magic of a good story?