Review: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield
Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River: A Novel by Diane Setterfield begins, (circa 1887) at the Swan at Radcot, a pub along the Thames River where folks regularly gather to drink and tell stories.  One night something considered impossible occurs at the pub.

“For another hour they talked.  Every detail of the day’s events were gone over, the facts were weighed and combined, quantities of surmising, eavesdropping, and supposition were stirred in for flavor, and a good sprinkling of rumor was added like yeast to make it rise.” – Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield  – p. 158

Each chapter in the novel becomes almost a story in itself.  I enjoyed the novel, but took breaks between chapters as the writing was intricate and I needed to take extra time to let the chapters settle in my mind.  I did indeed enjoy each chapter and looked forward to picking up the book for the next epesode as I knew I would be in for a treat.

As the novel continues and we learn about the lives of people along the river,  various tangents begin to relate to one another, the suspense builds and I did not want to put the book down.

The author asks us to suspend disbelief.  If a thing is impossible, does that mean it didn’t happen?

“just ’cause a thing’s impossible don’t mean it can’t happen.” – p. 301

Once Upon A River checked off some of the things I especially like.  It is historical fiction and the characters are fully developed.

What Others Are Saying

The writing in this book was quite lovely and lyrical. The story itself moved at a languid pace like the meandering river at its heart. While I was very curious about the mystery surrounding the girl, there were parts where I felt the story was too wordy and my interest waned. Still, Once Upon a River is a unique read that will appeal to lovers of magical folklore. – Diane @ Book Of Secrets

ONCE UPON A RIVER beautifully and slowly unfolded as the mystery of the little girl was revealed and as we learn about the lives of the characters. – Elizabeth @ Silver’s Reviews

(Click to Purchase From Amazon or Read More)
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (December 4, 2018)

Material Disclosure

Thank you to the publishers at Atria Books | Simon & Schuster and #shereadswithfriends on Instagram for providing me a copy of this novel.

I received this book, Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield, free of charge, from the publisher, Atria in participation with #shereadswithfriends on Instagram .  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  


Share this:


  1. Sounds like an excellent read, I didn’t take it on because I had too many other books on my calendar. However I can keep it in mind for the future.

  2. Pat, I’m glad that you enjoyed this book. It sounds like a unique story. I notice that there are two different covers shown on your blog. 🙂

    1. Hi Suko, Thanks for stopping by. The cover I have featured in this post is the hardcover. That is the version I have. I think the one on my sidebar is the paperback cover.

  3. The Thirteenth Tale is very good – just saying…
    Your description of this new one is very nice, Pat. I’ll be trying it before long, hopefully.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *