Based on the title and the cover, I had a feeling that this book was going to have a fairy tale feel to it, but I didn’t anticipate just dreamlike it was going to be. If I am going to be completely honest, I felt like the book could have been somewhat shorter, especially for what the reveal eventually was.
The story centers around a mysterious man and a young child who show up at an inn, barely alive. In fact, the child is presumed dead until suddenly she wakes up. Noone knows who she is or where she came from, though she looks like two children from different families that went missing around the same time. Inevitably what follows is a back and forth as the village and the impacted families try to figure out the strange child who constantly looks to the river, from where she was pulled.
Parts of this book irked me, particularly because it seemed like the village was more concerned about what story they were going to tell and how the events that unfolded fit into the narrative, than the welfare of the child. She is continuously tossed back and forth between people like a plaything that is interesting when the mood suits. The child, who can’t speak, tries to tell them in her own way where she is from, but the village, wrapped up in their own affairs, hardly takes the time to really try to listen to the child.
However, this gripe is more on the characters than on the book itself. Setterfield is a good storyteller and is able to use descriptive language to pull the reader in to the fairy tale until it’s hard to know what is reality. I could definitely see each scene clearly and loved the way Setterfield described the ever flowing river and its varying moods.
I am definitely glad that I had a chance to read a Setterfield novel, and now, more than ever, want to read her other book, “The Thirteenth Tale.” I am just disappointed that I missed the book club discussion on this book as I would have loved to hear what everyone else thought.