Bellman & Black: Book summary and reviews of Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Bellman & Black

By Diane Setterfield

Bellman & Black
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2013,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth Tale comes a dark and mesmerizing ghost story guaranteed to haunt you to your very core.

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. 

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A gothic tale in which moments of tedium are relieved by morbidity." - Kirkus

"Poetic and mysterious." - Booklist

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Betty T.
Bellman & Black
First I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It held my attention and taught me quite a bit about the businesses that Mr. Bellman threw himself so completely into. It is beautifully written. However, there were a few flaws (dare I use that term?) that held me back from giving it five stars.

If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe I suspect you may enjoy this book as much as I did. It has a hint of darkness -- not a raven, but a rook (same family, I believe). But overall "Bellman and Black" seemed to be more a novella than a novel (although a bit long for a novella).

A novel generally has a main plot with several subplots going on at the same time to add complexity; a novella is not as complex. "Bellman and Black basically has one story throughout the entire book. Only one character is thoroughly developed in "Bellman and Black". With only one character developed this lends to only one point of view. There is a lot of detail regarding the work that Bellman oversees. I suspect that will bore quite a few people. I actually found those parts very interesting.

The full title of this book is actually "Bellman and Black: A Ghost Story". I'm not sure why it is called a ghost story. Yes, like Poe's stories there is a dark side but I would not put it in the category of ghost stories. Yet, even with all my negative criticisms, I did enjoy it very much.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Jonna
A Ghost story...may be not
"Bellman and Black" by Diane Setterfield author of "The Thirteenth Tale" has provide us with another great read. A ghost story not what I thought.
I did find the story gripping from the start. The pages kept turning until I was finished.

The descriptive writing made me feel that I was right there in the time period. Historical fiction giving light to the lives and business of milling cloth. You felt the pride of the townspeople, their grief and rebuilding of lives. The use of the Rook throughout the story was intriguing as well as informational. Loved the Rook point of view.

Did not read it as a ghost story and did not find it as a ghost story...was disappointed that it was called "a ghost story".

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kathrin C.
Great Cover, But . . .
I was so looking forward to reading Setterfield's second novel, a long time in coming. But I'm sad to say it did not, for me, create that totally wonderful envelopment that happened when I read her first novel. The eerie foretelling of William Bellman's daunting future in the prologue grabbed me right off, but as I read on, and on, that grip steadily loosened its hold. I still respect Setterfield as a fine writer and one able to create strong atmospheric historical settings. And I found her "&" interludes on rooks sprinkled throughout the book delightful. But I never could forge a connection to Will Bellman and I confess I forced myself to finish her second book.

I still grant it 3 stars - for the writing, the gothic atmosphere and historical color. And I still have a niggling feeling that perhaps I overlooked the real core of this novel and maybe I will read it again.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Carol S. (Pawleys Island, SC)
No mystery here
I have to say that I loved "Thirteenth Tale" but only liked this book.
Setterfield's writing is excellent and I enjoyed the first half of the novel. The rest of the book dragged for me. I found it rather contrived that William Bellman should pay such a steep price for the incident from his childhood. The punishment doesn't fit the crime.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Terri O. (Chapel Hill, NC)
Well written but ultimately disappointing
There is no denying that Diane Setterfield is a good writer. Her prose is eloquent and atmospheric, and she does a good job in Bellman & Black of bringing Victorian England to life. Unfortunately, I found the characters to be largely flat and uninteresting, and the entire plot hinged on a childhood event that seemed too inconsequential to bear the weight of future events. The first part of the book held my interest but then the plot flagged and my interest along with it. In addition, I thought the ending was abrupt and unsatisfying. I expected that there would be more to the childhood story on which the plot hinged and that the revelation of the additional details would explain the plot satisfactorily, but unfortunately no further details were forthcoming. I can't say that I would recommend this book to anyone.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kelly P. (Monterey, TN)
Why is this marketed as a ghost story?
The book is written with well-chosen words and descriptive passages evoking the industrial age in England. However, these passages do not tell a ghost story as promised by the jacket and cover blurbs. Instead we get a story of a man haunted by an internal demon, the memory of an event from his childhood. I enjoyed the book because of the author's narrative skill and the time period. I left it though with the lingering impression that she had an interesting idea for a tale but tried too hard to force it into the gothic supernatural category while forgetting to include the actual supernatural element.

...12 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Diane Setterfield Author Biography

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale (2006) was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being 'a love letter to reading' as for its mystery and style. Her second novel is Bellman & Black (2013).

Born in Englefield, Berkshire in 1964, Setterfield spent most of her childhood in the nearby village of Theale. After schooldays at Theale Green, Setterfield studied French Literature at the University of Bristol. Her PhD was on autobiographical structures in André Gide's early fiction. She taught English at the Institut Universitaire de Technologie and the Ecole nationale supérieure ...

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Name Pronunciation
Diane Setterfield: die-ann seter-field

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