Monday 26 August 2013

Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Bellman and Black

Book Blurb:


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



I received a copy of this from NetGalley in return for a review:

I was disappointed with Bellman and Black, maybe because I read The Thirteenth Tale seven years ago, loved it and so had high hopes for the author's second novel. Or maybe because it has been described as a ghost story, it isn't really and it meant I was expecting a very different type of story.

It's set in Victorian England and starts when William Bellman is a boy, and one day, while out with his cousin and some friends, he kills a rook with his catapult. Then it jumps forward in time and he gets a job working at his Uncle's Mill. I felt there was too much written about the workings of the mill, the dye and the fabrics. Yes, this may have needed touching on but not paragraph after paragraph. 

I thought the story was slow to start with, then it improved a lot only to go flat again. In fact I found this throughout the book, every time I thought the story was gaining pace and going somewhere it was a false alarm.

This review may seem overly negative for a 3 star rating but it was very well written and good in parts, it's just that I was expecting so much more. I think this one may have benefited from being a novella rather than a full size novel. I'm not sure this will be as successful as her first book, but perhaps I'm wrong and it's just not for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5


  1. Thanks for this review! I was wondering about this book, and have seen varying ratings on it. I like your idea that the story would have been much better if much shorter. How true that can be!

  2. Glad to know why you were disappointed. I might give it a try, because I also liked The Thirteenth Tale so much. Thanks!

  3. It is too bad that this didn't live up to the hype. I have had my eye on Bellman and Black for awhile, but I strive for at least a 4 star read. Thank you for the great review.
    -Dilettantish Reader


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