Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

This book has made me speechless, I’m struggling to find the words that will do this fantastic book – justice. To me, it’s already a classic; one you can share with family, friends and future generations. This is a story that will stand the test of time.

This is a story that starts its roots in The Swan Inn, where on a rainy night a bloodied tall man walks in with the body of a young girl. The man loses consciousness so can’t tell his story right away, leaving the regulars to speculate. When nurse Rita arrives something tells her to look at the dead girl again and she’s glad she trusted her instinct because the girl is alive! How? Everyone says! Her pulse was checked when she arrived and she had none? Is it a miracle?

With the girl now alive, the rumours begin, who does she belong to?

Diane now brings in two possible answers to this question. The Vaughans and the Armstrongs, but are either of them the true answer, there’s something very unusual about this girl. A claim is made but will it stick?

Meanwhile so many other characters are revealing their own stories, and for me, that’s the real magic of this book. There’s so much going on and yet the story holds together so beautifully, without becoming confusing or making you feel like you’re juggling multiple plots – in a nutshell it is flawlessly weaved together like a patchwork quilt.

It’s even difficult to pick out a favourite character as so many of them capture your heart. I loved Rita’s determination, Henry’s kind nature, Robert’s compassion, Jonathan’s sweet nature, Margot’s no nonsense attitude…. oh the list goes on!

The enchantment of this story is elevated by the folk stories of the Ferryman, who helps those that find themselves drowning to either safety on the riverbank or safe passage to the other world. I loved the mystique this brought to the story and also the numerous sightings that characters have had, perhaps it’s not just folklore, he might actually exist!

There’s a maturity to Diane’s writing that takes a story from being good to being phenomenal; you believe every word, you breathe every sentence and you live through the story.

I don’t think I could ever summarise how atmospheric and deeply mesmerising this story is, all i know is: I was blown away by it and didn’t want it to end.

I urge you to read this story, you will not forget it.

Once Upon a River is out now from Black Swan an imprint of Penguin, it is now out in hardback, paperback and eBook versions!

Until next time, Chloé x



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