I have read Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, a gothic suspense tale that celebrates the joys of real storytelling, and really enjoyed the 12 tales that did exist as well as the mystery of the thirteenth tale. Well worth your time if you haven’t read it. It was also made into a film by the BBC if you can get your hands on that to watch. Then I read the accolades for Setterfeild’s latest work Once Upon a River and I have included Madeline Miller’s below.
“One of the most pleasurable and satisfying new books I've read in a long time. Setterfield is a master storyteller...swift and entrancing, profound and beautiful.”— Madeline Miller, internationally bestselling author of Circe and The Song of Achilles
You all know I loved Miller’s Circe, another powerful retelling of Greek mythology as I have written about that good read before so if Madeline Miller thought it the most pleasurable read then I knew that Once Upon A River was definitely my holiday read. And I have to agree with Miller as it is one of the most pleasurable new books that came out in 2018.
At once a story telling, a mystery with multiple layers and a myth Once Upon a River is truly a delight to read. The writing is lyrical storytelling that brings home the power of stories, the power of the storyteller and the joy to be found in the telling - all from different points of the mystery and with little pieces of the puzzle until it comes together with the surprise twist at the end.
There is a kidnapped girl, a missing pig, a girl returned from the dead, and above all the stories of the people on the river Thames. There is the slow discovery of science and healing with the mystery that surrounds the little girl’s return to life after being thought dead and a romance and three family dramas to keep the story bubbling along and all through it is the river Thames. The tale starts on a dark midwinter night, in an ancient river inn and the door bursts open with a stranger covered in blood, dripping river water and carrying a little girl, obviously drowned, who actually lives. Who is the little girl? She is mute and there are three families who wish to claim her, all with secrets of their own and the stranger found her in the river so has no knowledge of her history.
This is powerful storytelling and I could definitely imagine this as a story that could be told as well as read as the rhythm of the words lend themselves to the telling and resurrects the joy of oral storytelling which was once so valued in our societies. It pulls you in from the first page and takes you on a river journey, branching off into some side tributaries that delight as well as fills in some missing pieces of the puzzle and magically brings us to a satisfying end.