It’s finally happened. I have read a Diane Setterfield book in which I liked the prose AND the plot AND the characters. The third time really is the charm, apparently. Persistence pays off! Sort of!
The story meanders like the titular river, seeming to flow slowly on the surface with hidden currents beneath. I enjoyed the fairy tale theme, but at the same time I found myself wishing that Setterfield had set out to subvert it instead of lean so hard into it. A whole lot of fairy tales and legends hinge on the suffering of women, and Once Upon a River is no exception. In fact, it plays most of the greatest hits, including but not limited to: rape, physical abuse, emotional abuse, abandonment, etc. Rita Sunday’s character journey had the most subversion potential, which is why the way she’s treated made me full-body cringe.
So anyway, yay for Setterfield with her beautiful prose finally writing a book with a story that interested me. Though I have to admit, after Bellman & Black that bar was really low.