Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Book: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
Genre: Literary Fiction
For:  Review and my one RIP read!
From: NetGalley (Release date: November 5, 2013)

Wow, has this book been highly anticipated or what?! We all loved her other book, The Thirteenth Tale way back when (before I started blogging actually!) But let me just say really quick here... this one is very very different, so be warned.

The best way I can think of to describe this book is that it's sinister, dark and really quite weird. It had the feeling of an Edgar Allen Poe story.... or an Alfred Hitchcock movie (especially The Birds!) But, I'm not quite sure I "got" it. And I know there was SOMETHING that needed getting there at the end, but I just scratched my head and thought... now...wait....what?

I mean, I understood that there was this dude who starts out as a nice and fairly normal guy. He is very motivated and ambitious and smart and his life is all lovely and happy. But then tragedy strikes and he basically sells his soul... or something. And then he his driven for the whole rest of the book to build a big huge store for the selling of funeral arrangements and mourning clothes.

The book takes place in Victorian (ish) England during the time when people wore black forever after someone they love dies. He becomes totally and completely obsessed with this store (which he names Belllman and Black) and making it all perfect and such.

Which he does, but at a pretty great cost.

Interwoven between his story we get some hint at another presence in his life, but I'm not sure who or what that being is (the ghost referred to in the subtitle... I think! But I'm not convinced it was a ghost at all.) Bellman (our main character) is also obsessed with this presence and feels accountable to him/it.

Then there are the birds, the rooks, that are a running theme throughout the story... referring back to an incident that happened in Bellman's childhood. And everything seems to hinge on this incident. And those birds. (cue Twilight Zone music here!)

Ah... it's weird stuff. Creepy too, in a strange subtle simple way. Which basically means....

Bottom Line:.... I totally enjoyed it! Even if I'm not sure I understood that ending! Please, if/when you read this, let's talk openly in the comments. Deal? I really need to know what you think!

Other Reviews:

If you are looking for a classic ghost story this fall, this is not it. From Book Chatter

The haunting is in the message, in the issues that Setterfield tackles – the meaning of life and death, of what’s important and what isn’t, of dealing with love, with loss, with work, with rest. From Modern Gypsy

I found this to be a very slow read with lots of details and some repetition in the descriptions of William's daily routines. From Cherie Reads

I found this a dark, atmospheric and unusual Victorian tale depicting a man’s glorious rise and tragic fall; cleverly written and structured, it made me think about the joy and sadness of life. From The Little Reader Library


  1. I can't wait to read this one! I love a classic ghost story. :) Of course, I'll probably come out like you, not understanding the ending ... that happens to me ALL the time.

    Yay! I'm glad you liked this!

  2. I haven't read this one yet, but I LOVED The Thirteenth Tale.

  3. This sounds great! I really love dark sinister books, especially when you don't really "get" them. Makes it actually more dark. I'm adding it to my TBR. Thanks for the review! :)

  4. I am glad that you enjoyed it! I liked the book, but clearly, as per my review, didn't love it. I enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale a lot more!



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