2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.
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Book Review: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

I really liked it. I am not sure if I loved it though… For me, this one fell a little short of the glorious storytelling of The Thirteenth Tale – although I found it an infinitely more enjoyable tale than Bellman and Black. With this book, Setterfield appears to have again found her voice, and her metier is – without a doubt – lush stories with gloriously complex and artfully-crafted characters who are always more than they seem. The setting was wholly original and marvelously constructed also; this is one of my favorite created worlds in recent fiction.

Yet for all of those gushing compliments, something is holding me back just a bit from calling it a five-star story…

I don’t know what that something is, honestly – I’ve been thinking it through since I finished and just can’t put my finger on it. I would read it again. I would read whatever else she wrote. I would love to see her revisit this world. But there were a handful of times where the story felt a bit too riverine – meandering and twisting back on itself but with no purpose other than the meander… When I first read The Thirteenth Tale, I literally couldn’t put it down until I finished it. This book opened in such a fashion – I was sure I would be hooked from the opening lines. There was a beautiful simple tragedy to it all, and knowing Setterfield’s previous books, I knew that simplicity would mask a slew of fabulous tricksy details that would lead me down the primrose path and then, mercifully and eventually, back home again. It did, on both accounts, but with a few sideways trips where I found myself pausing to grab a cup of coffee or heading out to check the mail. The willingness to walk away doesn’t indicate a failing in the story – it really is lovely and I did thoroughly enjoy it – but it did surprise me, both at the time and in the consideration I’ve made since finishing.

Still, no one tells a tale quite like Setterfield, such that I’m more than willing to overlook a few inconsistencies in pacing in exchange for the glory of the tale as a whole – particularly when, as I’ve said, I can’t point to exactly what was inconsistent beyond a feeling that it was almost (but not quite) perfect…

Thanks to NetGalley for my review copy.

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