Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review of Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Title/Author: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
Publisher/Date published: Atria/Emily Bestler Books, November 5th 2013
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: 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"...

Guys, I LOVED The Thirteenth Tale. LOVED. It was amazing and the storytelling was so, SO good and I just want to have all booklovers read it. So imagine my excitement when I heard about this newest book. It sounded amazing and creepy and just epic. And I had pretty high expectations.

And I'm disappointed.

I can't help it, I was expecting some of the same magic of The Thirteenth Tale and I never got it. The storytelling felt a bit flat to me and I'm still not entirely sure what the whole point was. If there even was a point. And why after over 300 pages I'm not sure of this. I'm all kinds of confused about the plot and I don't like being confused.

I never really connected to William Bellman, he's probably a good guy, but I never felt like I really knew him or could understand his actions. The character I probably liked best was Dora, his daughter, and we never really get to see much of her either. I really disliked William in the later chapters and was disappointed that he wasn't spending more time with his only surviving child and I didn't understand it.

I liked the parts about William working at the mill and learning everything there was to learn about it and then eventually taking over. That was great storytelling and lovely, but after that, it just went downhill for me. Especially after William makes his deal with Black. It was dark and not really creepy, but a bit boring at times.

It took me forever to read this book and maybe I went into this with too high expectations and this was doomed to fall flat for me, but I just can't help but feel let down. Where is the wonderful storytelling I remember from The Thirteenth Tale? I mean, there were parts that I liked, but mostly I just struggled with this book and I can't say that the ending made me rethink it all. I so wanted to love this book, but I didn't and that makes me sad.

My rating: 2,5 stars


  1. I had such high hopes for this book as well and found it fell so far from those that I was utterly disappointed in the book as well. I also had a fairly tough time getting through this because the story didn't seem to have any appeal to it.

  2. Sorry it was such a bummer! Even taking the high expectations into account, it doesn't sound like there was much there to recommend the book otherwise.
    I hope you next read is better.