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Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

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Posts: 4337
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Post by Vanessa » Mon August 26th, 2013, 12:19 pm

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 11, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who "could go to the good or the bad." And indeed, although William Bellman's life at first seems blessed--he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business--one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife's fresh grave--and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William--a mysterious business called "Bellman & Black" . .

My Review:

An unusual and disturbing story set in the Victorian era. When a young boy by the name of William Bellman kills a rook with his catapult, it sets off a tragic chain of events and a meeting in a graveyard with a mysterious stranger dressed in black.

As I absolutely loved The Thirteenth Tale by the same author, I was very pleased and excited to be given the opportunity to review Bellman and Black. Although it is beautifully written, carefully told, atmospheric and well researched, I did not enjoy this one as much. I found the descriptions of the inner workings of the mill and the emporium to be quite heavy going and a little dull.

However, it was by no means a disaster for me as the pace did pick up quite considerably during the second half of the book. I was more engrossed in the plot and I found myself turning the pages a little quicker to discover what happened next.

The characters are quite dark and sombre in line with this atmospheric little tale. I didn't have a favourite, though. It's classed as a ghost story but I would say it is more one of horror and about revenge.

I liked the intermittent chapters about the rooks or ravens and their collective terms - I found them intriguing and eerie. I will never look at a rook in the same way again!

I read and reviewed this for Lovereading.co.uk.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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