What better setting for storytelling than the Swan Inn, and what better story than the appearance of an injured stranger carrying a drowned child, who then returns to life? The arrival of the little girl at the inn on the banks of the Thames galvanises the village: who is she and where has she come from?
With its rich cast of characters, denizens of a society on the cusp of change, and with the great river ebbing and flowing in the background, this Victorian gothic tale considers the timeless mysteries of life and death. [Larger font]
The book was very well liked by all - many couldn't put it down and look forward to reading her other novels. The atmosphere of the book seeps through the pages. Every character has a reason for being introduced and it all comes together. Very satisfying.
It's rare that we all read and LOVE a book! This was one of them. Stories within stories, strongly written characters ( including the Thames itself), the fantastic and the everyday woven together.
Mixed reaction to this book. Some felt the pace was slow, and did not come to grips with the unexplained referred to as "magic". Others absolutely loved the theme of storytelling, the characters and development of these, the central role of the river, and the beautiful writing that carried the stories.
This is simply written but a true story. Poetic and mysterious to the end. We all enjoyed reading it.
Our holiday read enjoyed by all. We felt it was a slow start but all became absorbed as it developed. A fabulous evocation of place, beautifully written.
The book was a wonderful tapestry of characters and storytelling combining folk lore, science, magic and myth set in the late 1880s. We found the rich cast of characters convincingly illustrated the best and worst of humanity. The influence of the River Thames and storytelling at the Swan is fundamental to the story, and we all felt the writer did a wonderful job of evoking the atmosphere of the old inn and bringing the characters to life. We all thoroughly enjoyed the book and the discussion that followed.
An enchanting book enjoyed by all of us. We detected a Dickensian flavour. The author was unflinching in descriptions of the gulf between rich and poor. The otherworldly nature of the novel made wonderful use of the river and used storytelling to blend myth and reality.
Everyone loved this book. Wonderful storytelling. Gripping from 1st page. Highly recommended.
Opinions were divided and engendered much discussion. All agreed it was beautifully written, as it meandered along its watery course. We were left with divergent opinions on whose the child was.
Rated 5 by all members - best read of this year's selection.
Enjoyed by the majority. A magic read written by a consummate storyteller. Most of the members could not put this book down. An excellent tale.
Only one of our group had problems with being engaged with this book. The rest loved the storytelling, the character development, and the role of the Thames as a foundation and metaphor.
Most enjoyable; perhaps the ending was a little predictable, but overall an interesting trip on the upper Thames.
This was a great read - loved by all.
So many stories in this book, folklore, science, magic and myth. Wonderful descriptive passages. Well-written and a great storyteller. A big success with our group.
A mixed response. Some loved it and others found it confusing. All agreed the writing was evocative, atmospheric and clever, and admired the plot unfolding with so many twists but coming together at the end. An animated discussion was held.
Everyone really enjoyed this book, even the people who normally enjoy non-fiction more than fiction.
Nearly every member loved this book. We felt the author was a very masterful storyteller, her descriptions were lovely - the two pages on the tributaries of the Thames I found outstanding. We found it quirky, original, unexpected and not predictable. All in all, a most enjoyable read that we thoroughly recommend, and has inspired some to look for other books from this author. One of the best we have read in the last 2 years.
All twelve of us loved this book; delicate, well-developed characters, concise clear writing.
This beautifully told story, 'Once Upon a River'. was indeed a definitive "5 stars" from each of us. Poetic writing and a tale that meandered as did the river, had us all enthralled and entwined with each character. The writing was quite breath-taking at times. We thoroughly enjoyed every word of it.
Spirited discussion, most loved the book. Some loved the book. Some loved the river imagery, characters and other-worldliness. We all loved 'The Thirteenth Tale', and were not disappointed.
Enjoyable read, animated discussion.
A long but relatively easy read. Those that read it liked the flow of the story like the river - and the mysticism mixed up with the mystery of false/mistaken identities. An insight into the grimness of life in those times...There was a rhythm or pattern to the book that was soothing.
An engaging book in which the various stories and characters took on a credible and satisfying reality of their own.