My book club’s choice for our last meeting was Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. It was not a book I would have necessarily chosen for myself but several of the other members were raving about it so I was certainly intrigued and looking forward to reading it.
On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.
Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle?
Is it magic?
And who does the little girl belong to?
I found that I was somewhat ambivalent about this book. I did enjoy it and I think it is well written. I really liked the characters (especially Rita and Mr Daunt) and I was rooting for them to have a happy ending. The mixture of science and folklore was interesting too and I spent some time trying to figure out how fantastical the story was – the author’s note at the end explained a lot!
However, it wasn’t a book which made me really want to pick it up each time. I can’t really articulate why either – as I said, I did enjoy the story. I think I was letting it flow over me instead of being really invested in it.
The other members of my book club loved it though. So much so that I thought we were going to have a very short meeting indeed – we don’t tend to have a lot to say when everybody likes a book! Luckily though we did find tthings to talk about and it was a great meeting.
I would still recommend Once Upon a River to others – it is a good book, I just wasn’t in quite the right frame of mind to really love it. That was just me though and shouldn’t be held against the book. The weather, however, was perfect – absolutely pouring rain which really added to the atmosphere of the book!
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
What a difference a couple of days make! Two days after the Midsummer Night’s Dream performance I was back outside to see Heartbreak Production’s Private Lives.
We were in another beautiful location but this time we had steady, heavy rain for almost the entire show. It only really stopped right at the very end – the complete opposite of the last performance. We were very British though and hunkered down in our waterproofs to enjoy the show. I also copied the lady in front and kept my umbrella over my knees which worked brilliantly.
I had never seen Private Lives before and I didn’t really know the plot either. Except that a some point somebody would be wearing pyjamas!
I loved the play. We get so few opportunities to see real, proper plays that I leap at every chance I get and I revel in the intellectual experience. It was quite intellectual too – Private Lives is not very plot driven but is all about the conversation so you really have to listen. It was excellent.
The only things which jarred somewhat were the extra little scenes involving the hotel staff which the company had added in. I didn’t really understand what they were trying to achieve and I would rather have just had the play.
However, I still very much enjoyed myself and, as I said, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to see the play. The rain didn’t damp our spirits and, although it put us off eating much, our picnic became a lovely after theatre supper when we got home!