Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.
Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.
Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known. (publisher)
An injured man appears in a tavern carrying a girl who seems to be dead. But suddenly she isn’t dead. No one knows who the man or the child is. But soon numerous people came and try to claim the child as theirs.
This is the first book I’ve read by the author, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Most of the book I wasn’t sure if this was set in a real Victorian era or in some fairy-tale world and it kind of bothered me. The book started good but in the middle, it slowed down a bit. I think that while it could have been shorter, it was well written.
There are many characters in the book and at times I had trouble remembering who was who and how were they connected.
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. While I enjoyed it, I wasn’t as thrilled by it as I expected to be. But it was different from what I usually read so it’s certainly well remembered.
Published: Atria Books (December 4, 2018)