Bellman & Black

A Ghost Story

Setterfield, Diane

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Bellman & Black
Killing a bird with his slingshot as a boy, William Bellman grows up a wealthy family man unaware of how his act of childhood cruelty will have terrible consequences until a wrenching tragedy compels him to enter into a macabre bargain with a stranger in black.

Publisher: New York :, Atria Books,, 2013.
ISBN: 9781476711959
Characteristics: 328 pages ;,24 cm
Alternate Title: Bellman and Black


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Dec 12, 2014
  • margot1962 rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

A disappointment after her previous book. Started off okay, but got really slow! I found I wanted desperately to get away from the main character, super dull life, and not at all positive. Ugh, was so happy for it to end. The one thing that I did like was all the references to Corvids. Many interesting facts at each chapter. That part was fun.

Oct 21, 2014
  • JCLChristiH rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I'd classify this story as more of a beautifully Gothic historical fiction that would appeal to bird enthusiasts and those who enjoy the details of early Downton Abbey era England.

Jan 14, 2014
  • bibliofinn rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A satisfyingly dark and atmospheric Gothic tale, in which vaulting worldly ambition goes hand in hand with loss and clammy dread. But I wonder if the author was just a little too in love with her research into mid-Victorian funeral pomp. This would have worked as a long story or a novella, but at 300 pages it gets a bit sprawling and cluttered. One of the themes here is the arc of life and of story, but that arc itself isn't cleanly delineated in the telling. Not bad, just not as good as it could have been.

Jan 10, 2014
  • Carmccone rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Captivating story-telling with well-crafted characters and luscious atmospheric prose. A wonderful read.

Jan 09, 2014
  • KarenW rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A fascinating story of how a small incident in one boy's life comes to haunt his every moment as a grown man. With details of historical fabric mills and life in Britain at a time when mourning was done up in black crepe or grey as the situation warranted, this clever "ghost" story is a serpentine way of getting to a very satisfying conclusion.

Jan 08, 2014
  • gracindaisy rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

As a boy, a man remembers killing a rook with his slingshot; an act which haunts him his entire life.

Dec 27, 2013
  • Cdnbookworm rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This novel centers around William Bellman. When William is ten years old, her makes a challenge to himself in front of his friends that he can hit a bird with a shot from his slingshot, a shot that should be beyond him, but he does indeed hit the rook and kills him.
Years later his paternal uncle offers him a position at the family mill, and discovers that William has an aptitude for the work, good at analyzing, good with numbers, and good with people. William's father had run off when he was only an infant and his grandparents had cut William and his mother off from that side of the family, but his uncle is willing to buck the pressure and take a chance on William. And William's life changes forever.
But when a mysterious stranger begins to appear in William's life, his luck changes again, and doesn't change until William believes he makes a deal with the man.
William ends up building an empire in the business of death, providing not only funeral services, but also all the trappings for funerals and mourning. This part was particularly interesting to see the details of Victorian funeral conventions.
The rook theme introduced in William's youth also reappears again and again through the novel, perhaps associated with the mysterious stranger. I liked the chapters on rooks, each one giving an interesting term for a group of these birds.
This is a tale of a man's life, triumphs and regrets, happiness and sorrow. And an underlying fear that follows him throughout.

Nov 22, 2013
  • ehbooklover rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

What a huge disappointment. I had to wait 7 years for this? While Setterfield is very talented with regards to her descriptive writing style, this book had zero character development and the ending was just blah. Skip this one and try “The Thirteenth Tale”.

Sep 10, 2013
  • becker rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

There were some lovely things about this book. It was very atmospheric & full of symbolism .It read almost like a fairy tale at times and I enjoyed the writing. However, I thought the plot was a bit unsatisfying. It was always hinting at some great moment to come that actually never happened. I enjoyed the ending which I thought was clever. Actually I didn't truly appreciate the book until I read the last few pages. This book is described as a ghost story but it is not a ghost story at all in the traditonal sense and those that choose it for that reason will be disappointed.


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