Once Upon a River cover

Review: Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River coverAuthor: Diane Setterfield;
Genre: Literary fiction (Novel) with Magical Realism;
Format: Audiobook;
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson;
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2018);
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5).

This was a highly-anticipated work of fiction from the author of “The Thirteenth Tale,” a very popular gothic novel from 2006. That work has always been a favorite of mine, so I jumped at the chance to read this one. That was also the case because Juliet Stevenson is a fabulous narrator, and I knew she wouldn’t disappoint.

The description reads, in part: “Once Upon a River is a glorious tapestry of a book that combines folklore and science, magic and myth. Suspenseful, romantic, and richly atmospheric, the beginning of this novel will sweep you away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting you through worlds both real and imagined, to the triumphant conclusion whose depths will continue to give up their treasures long after the last page is turned.” I agree with all of this and could never come up with a better description.

This is, above all, a very British novel; it hasn’t been “translated” for Americans and that is the way it should be. It’s also a slow read, meaning there isn’t much action and certainly no adventure. The characters are varied and most are interesting, although not all are likable. The way the several stories flow together (like a river) is clever, and the ending is very satisfactory while leaving enough for your imagination to think about afterward.

I am very glad to have listened to this story as read by Stevenson, who voices the characters in distinct accents and tones, and whose pacing is impeccable.

This is a novel for adults. Not because there is excessive violence, sex, or foul language, but the nuances of the story are definitely targeted to those with experience in life and love.

©2019 Jan McClintock
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