Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review | BELLMAN & BLACK by Diane Setterfield

November 5, 2013
As a boy, William Bellman commits one small, cruel act: killing a bird with his slingshot. Little does he know the unforeseen and terrible consequences of the deed, which is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to be a man blessed by fortune—until tragedy strikes and the stranger in black comes. Then he starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, William enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.
And Bellman & Black is born.

This is my first time to read Diane Setterfield.  I've had her THE THIRTEENTH TALE on the shelf for years, but never put a mark on the spine since I've put it there.  Some of my friends can’t believe that I haven’t tried their favorite book before.  So when I received my galley, I didn't have any expectations of any sort. I was excited though because the blurbs I read were enticing.

In a nutshell, this is a wonderful story and worth reading.  I was delighted to find beautiful language and phrasing in a Victorian style.  Ms. Setterfield wrote with lyrical fluidity that engaged me undividedly.  Her eloquence amazed me.  From the first few pages, I knew I was hooked.  It was actually difficult for me to put this down.   

BELLMAN AND BLACK tell the story of William Bellman, from his youth into his adulthood.  His story is a little too short if I tell it that way, I know.  He’s a man blessed with charm, a good head on his shoulders, and a good perspective in life.  In between, we will read how William struggled through life.  It cannot be disputed that he labored for his success and riches.  But life choices, in many cases, have its toll.   And it is not paid through currency. 

I must add that I do like the Rook Lore weaved into the story.  I never looked into it much closer until now.   The interspersed mention of rooks is like a blackness hovering above waiting to swoop down.  Its eeriness gave the mysterious blend of the story a nice depth.  

However, it might be difficult to defend the premise that the story has undertaken.  The reader will look for the ghost story in this, as what the subtitle implied.   Some will not find it, some maybe will.  Some will find that the story was too short, no action, less movement; but it was a life-long story that offered memories and thoughts to follow.  The story will lead the reader in a long winding road, all the while forcing us to contemplate.  But then again, nothing is ever easy, right?
“Without the past to cast its long shadow, might you see the future more clearly?” 
BELLMAN AND BLACK give us an issue to tackle.  We are only given one chance to walk this earth.  It doesn't matter how we live our own story, just the same, others will tell it.  So it boils down to one question… how do we price our own life?  If we think hard about it, it is a lot scarier than any ghost story.  It is a question that will haunt us for a lifetime.

Book Details:
Genre: Literature/Adult Fiction
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books 
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

*Thanks to Atria/ Emily Bestler Books and NetGalley for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review. This review is also available on Goodreads, Shelfari, and Tumblr.


  1. Oh my goodness! A new Setterfield! I really liked The Thirteenth Tale, so I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this.

    You really should read The Thirteenth Tale! It's one of my favorite modern gothic novels!

    1. Thank you, Peter.
      I'll line up Thirteenth Tale for next month, promise. :)

  2. What if we buddy read The Thirteenth Tale on November? Let's convince Maria too, I think she has this on her to-read. *wink wink* :)

  3. I have a copy of The Thirteenth Tale as well, but I haven't opened it yet. Haha! Dunno when I would feel the inspiration to read it though.

  4. That's a good idea, Lynai. How about it, Monique?
    Peter, I believe I have to defer my promise until November. :)