Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield


Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

One moment in time can haunt you forever.

Caught up in the moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly.  It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten.  B the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, Williams seems to have put the whole incident behind him.  It was as if he never killed the ting at all.  But rooks don't forget...

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enter William's life, his fortunes begin to turn - and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root.  In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain with an even stranger partner.  Together, they found a decidedly macabre business. 

And Bellman & Black is born.

Sometimes I think sophomore books get a bums rap.  They are almost always compared to the author's first outing, and for most people, rarely live up to whatever the expectations were, even if they were just in the reader's head.  When that first book is as brilliant and moody as Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, I sort of understand the issue.  A lot of reviews and commentary I heard about Bellman & Black were negative, not because the story was bad, but because it wasn't like her first book.  A lot of bloggers and readers went into it thinking it was going to be a retread of The Thirteenth Tale, and they, for whatever reason, seemed to be disappointed that they are nothing alike.  I for one, was relieved and loving the idea of Bellman & Black standing on it's own power, forcing readers to rethink the type of novel that Setterfield writes.

Where The Thirteenth Tale is dark and brooding, full of family mysteries and decaying buildings, Bellman & Black is full of family love, heart breaking loss, and redemption.  It's still dark and brooding, but the themes explored are totally different and they are not wrapped in Gothic trappings.  Instead we are treated to hints and teases of the supernatural, but we aren't drowned in them.  This is not a urban fantasy book, which I am most grateful for.  It's not full of ghosts and goblins stalking the streets of London, nor is it full of tired cliches that seem to litter the publishing world right now.  Instead Setterfield gives us a novel that explores death and loss in such a way, that as a reader, I'm ready to start planning my funeral.  She made me fall in love with death, while making me contemplate my own life, and the relationships in it.  She made me want to live and enjoy the life I'm given by making me comfortable and horrified by death.

Now I just need to wait and see what Setterfield has in store for us in her third novel.  I'm just hoping that she keeps the atmosphere but gives us something new, something that will both enchant and scare me at the same time.

13 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Wow, it sounds like this book really affected you!

Tasha Brandstatter said...

Well that sounds cheerful. :p Honestly, I couldn't finish The Thirteenth Tale, so I'll probably skip this one.

Mystica said...

Not read any of her books. This is going on my TBR. Thanks for the review.

Jillian said...

'She made me fall in love with death...'

Wow. I need to read this, haha. I loved her debut novel, so I really want to read this. I've heard mostly negative reviews, but I can't wait to give it a try.

Marg said...

I loved Diane Setterfield's first book. I have been a little worried about reading this one because I did love that first one so much.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I liked the feel of this one and also enjoyed 13th Tale. Nice review Ryan

carol said...

I have this, but I've been a little leery about reading it. I loved The Thirteenth Tale and expect to be disappointed by this one.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Hm... not sure if this one is for me. I'm not huge on horror... and this one sounds like it would be too much for me. Hey, I'm a wimp! LOL

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

So glad it worked for you. :) It does sound good. I try to not go in with to much in the way of expectations, try. ;) Take care!

Nise' said...

Great review. Thanks for the reminder to be fairer to an author's sophomore book after loving their debut. I liked this book and thought it was very unique.

Alexia561 said...

I can understand why some readers might be disappointed if it wasn't like her first book, but I actually prefer books that are different! Unless it's a sequel of course, but this one sounds like it can stand on it's own and is good in it's own right. Haven't read her first one so might give this one a try. Great review!

Becca Lostinbooks said...

I couldn't get through The Thirteenth Tale. Maybe I will like this one better. Great review, Ryan :)

Lisa said...

Thanks for this - I'd kind of written this one off. Putting it back on the wish list.