One of my most anticipated novels this year is Bellman & Black, mainly because I loved The Thirteenth Tale, which is one of my absolute favourite gothic tales. Diane Setterfield brings us her second novel 7 years after the success of her debut novel and I was really excited to read Bellman & Black!
The novel starts off slowly, by introducing us to the characters and family members of the Bellman family. The story’s protagonist is William Bellman, a young boy who is raised by his widowed mother, who isn’t really a widow. Truth is her husband left her, but she is too embarrassed by it, so she lies about it. William and his mother receive no support or even recognition from the Bellman family. The reasons for that get revealed later in the novel which gives more insight into the Bellman family dynamics, which includes mysteries, infidelity and scandal.
William is out playing with his friends and cousin one day and by accident kills a rook with his catapult (known to me as a slingshot). A seemly innocent act has consequences, which he realised when he grows up. The Bellman family owns a mill and when William is grown he takes over the running of the mill from his cousin (much to his grandfather’s grievance) and William turns into a savvy and successful businessman. All is going well with him, he is rich, has a successful business and a wife and kids, until one day his innocent childhood act catches up with him. People close to him starts dying, including his wife and kids, but one child remains: his daughter. Desperate to save her life, he makes a deal with a mysterious man, which he calls “Mr Black” – this man that shows up at every funeral, yet is so difficult to get hold of. Like he is a ghost…
Although described as a ghost story, I didn’t find that that it was; it just didn’t feel that way. I didn’t think that is was suspenseful enough. The book is well written, indeed, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Reason for that might be that I had high expectations based on her debut novel and the words “ghost story”. Honestly, if I had read this, without having read The Thirteenth Tale previously I would have liked it a little bit more. Apart from it being well written, I do think there are other positives such as the fact that the story sort of centres around “actions have consequences”, family secrets and intrigues, a woman’s pain over the rejection of her husband, yet having the strength to not show it for the sake of her child.
I would recommend this to those who are looking for a nice and quick weekend read, and even to those who enjoyed her debut novel. Let me know what you think, if you read it.
This novel will be published on the 5th of November 2013!