Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

The Publisher Weekly
By The Publisher Weekly

Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale) braids miracle and mystery in this marvelous tale set in the upper reaches of the Thames at the end of the 19th century. The story begins on a winter solstice night, when a gravely injured man stumbles into the Swan inn at Radcot and collapses. While the local nurse, Rita Sunday, is being summoned, the innkeeper’s son discovers that the large puppet the man was carrying is a little girl who at first appears to have drowned. After tending to the unconscious man, Rita turns her attentions to the child, who, stunningly, returns to life. The tale of the dead-then-alive girl travels throughout the night, and, in the morning, three parties arrive to claim her: Lily White, housekeeper to the parson, identifies the child as her sister Ann, despite the age difference; Robert Armstrong, a prosperous farmer, believes the girl to be the child of his absent son, Robin; and Helena and Anthony Vaughan hope that she might be their daughter, Amelia, kidnapped two years before. Setterfield’s characters attempt to puzzle out the child’s identity. By combining flavors of some of Britain’s very best writers—a hint of Austen’s domestic stories, a tinge of Tolkien’s more folkloric elements, and a dash of mystery from Christie—Setterfield has created a tale not to be missed.

Diane Setterfield
Fiction
Once Upon a River