I loved this book about storytelling with a big emphasis on watery imagery in its many forms - river, streams, rain, mist, fog, floods, teardrops, mucous, sweat, sniffles, amniotic fluid and more. Each chapter has so many references to water. Water permeates, drips and flows throughout this mysterious, curious and often magical tale. The title is so apt.
The story flows at a gradual and gentle pace, but there is a sense of foreboding throughout ...."something is going to happen." Several stories are interwoven and each story changes the direction as surely as the river.
It captured and held my interest throughout, as did the descriptive "slice of life" in 19th Century rural, village and town settings in England - at a time when superstitions were rife, and yet scientific thinking and questioning were emerging. Diane Setterfield took me right back there in time - with her atmospheric storytelling. There were hints of the style of Thomas Hardy, especially with the use of the local dialect.
I absolutely adored Once Upon a River. Diane Setterfield can really spin a yarn – what an incredible gift for understated storytelling. Reading this book felt just as though I was sitting by the fire with an ale in the dead of winter, hundreds of years ago.
This is a story about stories and storytelling. About the joys of being the first to bring a new tale, of refining one over time, of embroidering a tired story from long ago. It’s also about the distress of being forced to tell a painful story over and over again.
I highly recommend Once Upon A River. The language is wonderful, the narrative is surprising and the characters are unforgettable.