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.