Once Upon a River is atmospheric. It’s a story about a magical river, stories made true, and missing girls.
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?
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Even though there are no overt historical references, Once Upon a River felt very much like a book of its time. A book that oozed atmosphere, setting, wagons, and ferries. While one central mystery occupies the story, Setterfield examines the mysterious girl from multiple stories. These protagonists not only show us different lifestyles, classes, and secrets, but they all have their own stories. Once Upon a River is a slow story, like a meandering river, which transfixes you, without sweeping you quickly off your feet.
If you enjoy atmosphere, expansive characters, and the lines between stories and reality, you will probably enjoy Once Upon a River. I found myself picking favorite characters, only to be swayed in another instant. We are able to really get under their skin, see their fears, and feel the tenuous strings of their hope. It walks this fragile line between the real and the imaginary. Threatening to tip us over the edge depending on which way the wind blows.