Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science?

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Cover image for Once Upon a River / by Diane Setterfield

It is the night of the winter solstice. Storytellers gather at the Swan Inn to swap stories, drink and unwind from their days on the longest winter night. Suddenly, the door bursts open and an injured stranger walked in. 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?

The unknown, mysterious child brings the small village together and yet can easily tear it apart in a blink of an eye. Three separate families are claiming the girl as their missing relative. However, each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets to be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.

Setterfield has masterfully intertwined the lives of each character throughout past, present and future. The descriptive writing of the River Thames along with the richly detailed lives of the characters creates a distinctive story that draws you in from beginning to the end.

Once Upon a River is a historical mystery told like a folktale with magical realism that assembles wounded and vulnerable characters who celebrate life, death, imagination, and the enduring power of words.

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