Review: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Well – where do I start with this one? I loved Diane Setterfield’s THIRTEENTH TALE, so I was very excited to get BELLMAN AND BLACK from Net Galley. This is the story of William Bellman, who as a boy kills a rook with a stone — and rooks and this act seem to follow him throughout his life (England – about a hundred or more years ago). Bellman grows up to run a mill and has a business in mourning and funerals. He has so much loss in his life, it turns him inward. “Black” is his mysterious business partner.

So here’s the thing — I eagerly read the first half of this book, and then it felt like it stalled to me. I had to force myself again and again to return to it to finish the second half (I read it on Kindle, but I see it has just over 300 pages – certainly not a tome). I found it slow and fairly uneventful, but all the time I had the feeling that I wasn’t thinking about this book in the right way. It felt like an allegory – or a fable – or something that I just wasn’t getting. The writing reminded me a bit of Nathaniel Hawthorne or some other stark, 19th century writer. I wanted so much to like this book, this character, this story, but instead it felt a bit like a penance to read it. I kept hoping to have an epiphany that never occurred.

I’d be so curious (and grateful) to hear from others who have read it! Setterfield is an excellent writer, so if this is your only exposure to her, you might want to read THE THIRTEENTH TALE also.

Thanks, Net Galley for my copy.

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