Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is a difficult book to categorize because it doesn't fit neatly into any one genre. It's historical fiction looked at through the medium of magical realism with a healthy dose of the supernatural. All of the interwoven narratives (of which there are 4 main ones) center on the River Thames with quite a few factoids about that body of water sprinkled liberally throughout. [A/N: The author's notes section at the back details Setterfield's research which is unsurprisingly thorough.] The opening scenes of the book take place in The Swan on a dark and stormy night with the arrival of a mysterious stranger who is injured and carrying a little girl who is dead...until she isn't. The biggest mystery morphs from how she could possibly come back to life into who exactly she is and subsequently which family can call her their own. Flipping between a couple grieving for their child who has been lost for years, a disturbed woman who thinks the little girl is her dead sister, a man who believes she might be his grandchild, and a doctor (and her would-be suitor) this is Drama (capitalization necessary).
Frankly, I think Diane Setterfield has knocked it out of the park again. Once Upon a River is another work of beautiful writing with interesting characters (very different from those in The Thirteenth Tale which affirms my belief that Setterfield is a magician). This book is more adult in tone so be aware there are some explicit scenes but they are by no means overused or detracting from the overall story. And if magical realism and the supernatural aren't your thing then you're probably not going to fully get this book but I encourage you to give it a shot anyway because the writing is just so dang great. 10/10
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