Once Upon a River
By: Diane Setterfield
Once upon a time a girl in the California desert was lucky enough to receive an arc of Diane Setterfield’s Once Upon a River. Her first read by the author and, if the river wills it, not her last.
It’s a story about stories. A story about lost children and a girl who seemingly rises from the dead but definitely from the river.
At an inn on the banks of the Thames river stories are told as pastime to while away the hours. That’s where an injured man appears with the dead girl one night. The girl who, much later, wakes up. She’s mute and unable to answer questions. The man knows nothing about her.
So the pages of the story turn and spin out to other people who add their own chapters. One family thinks she’s their kidnapped daughter. Another their missing granddaughter and a 3rd woman thinks she’s her little sister.
Each family and each person has a story to write on the blank pages of the girl.
Once Upon a River isn’t just about the mystery but a lyrical story about the power of stories. The ones we tell ourselves to explain the unknowable, unthinkable and unbearable things.
The girl in the desert can see why people might not like it as much as she did. That they may find it slow or hard to get into and perhaps one part could have been cut out entirely. But she found it a beautiful and intriguing tale and one that tied up it’s many threads rather nicely offering some imagery and ideas that will stay with her.
But perhaps she is easily swayed by stories about the power and shared humanity in story-telling.
Much obliged to Netgalley for a copy of the arc. Once Upon a River is available now!