Audiobook, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River

One midwinter’s night at Swan Inn in Radcot on the banks of the river Thames, a seriously injured man bursts in carrying what was first believed to be a puppet. As they tend to the man’s wounds, the proprietors and patrons come to realize the puppet is actually a dead child. When the nurse arrives and tends to both, the child suddenly comes to life, stunning all and the story quickly spreads throughout the area. The child doesn’t speak so her identity is unknown but several come forward, sincerely believing she may belong to them.

This story enchanted me from the onset with its lyrical prose and captivating storytelling. Sometimes I have the opportunity to choose whether to read or listen to a book and if there was ever a perfect one for audio, this was it. The narrator told this story as if she’d been there, witnessed every event and met each character. She was outstanding, lifting that beautiful writing off the pages.

I appreciated how the river factored so significantly in each story, sometimes mystical and at others pragmatic. The Swan was known for its skilled storyteller, the proprietor Joe Bliss who could spin the ordinary into a fascinating tale. It was an art form that carries throughout and I kept getting swept away in it all. There are a lot of characters but you become so invested in them that there’s no confusion. All of those claiming the child had compelling stories that hooked me to the last page. I’m also a fan of magical realism, especially when it’s done well and here it’s just superb. I loved, loved, loved this story💜

Book Info

  • Release Date: December 4, 2018
  • Narrator: Juliet Stevenson
  • Audio Length: 16 hours, 27 minutes
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio



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(Thanks to Simon & Schuster Audio for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)

28 thoughts on “Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield”

  1. I was so curious about this one, I read so many glowing reviews of it and it did sound enchanting. I didn’t particularly like a novel by the author I read years ago, but this one sounded like something special. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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