Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield

Self decided to buy the hardcover yesterday, from London Review Bookshop. Then she toted it all over London, from Bloomsbury to Victoria Station to Waterloo Station to the National Theatre etc etc and, once back in Bedford Place, read until well past midnight.

Today, she’s toted it around further, from Bloomsbury to the Victoria & Albert (to see the Mary Quant exhibit — four stars!). That should prove how vested — how thoroughly enthralled — she is by this story’s beginning, about a hideously disfigured man stumbling into an inn on the Thames.

A midwife/nurse is summoned to treat him, and the nurse has to turn her back while the man is laid out on the table and all his clothes removed. When he is finally ready for examination, someone has discreetly preserved the nurse’s modesty by dropping a handkerchief over him.

The nurse “palpated bone, ligament, muscle, her eyes all the while diverted from his nakedness, as though her fingertips saw better than her eyes.”

Her white hands stood out against his darker skin.

“He is an out-of-doors man,” a grave-digger noted.

Truly masterful storytelling.

Stay tuned.

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