Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. 4/5
I really liked this slow-paced, somewhat wandering but frequently enchanting tale that takes place in a small English town with borders on the land of death. A child is found in the river, apparently dead, and brought to a pub, where she seemingly comes back to life. She does not speak, and she could be one of several children gone missing in recent years. As the story of the child’s true identity unfolds, so do the related tales of the publican and her family, a local aristocratic couple, a mixed-race family, and the myth of the river’s ferryman. Beautifully written.
The Penguin Book of Hell by Scott G. Bruce. 4/5
A great compendium of writing on hell and hellish places from ancient Greece and Rome through early and later Christianity, as well as the more literal hells of the Shoah and other genocides. The excerpted texts are presented with backgrounds about their authors and time periods, and offer fascinating information about how people have conceptualized hell in different social, political, and geographical contexts.