Bellman and Black – Diane Setterfield


Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: October 10th 2013 by Orion
Source –
My Rating – 3 stars

Bellman and Black will probably be one of my most memorable reads this year but for all the wrong reasons unfortunately.  I loved Diane Setterfield’s debut, The Thirteenth Tale and have been anxiously awaiting her second novel for seven long, long years.


The premise is promising – it’s a Victorian tale of love and loss and it focuses on the very Victorian obsession with mourning.  It begins with an incident during William Bellman’s childhood when he kills a rook with his slingshot – a regrettable mishap which will have long-lasting consequences.  William is successful in business, running a mill and later on a mourning emporium but his personal life is dogged with grief and disappointment.


Plot-wise, very little happens and this isn’t usually a problem for me as I enjoy slow-paced novels.  However I waited and waited to be drawn in but never quite got there.  At 320 pages, it’s not overly long but it became a chore to pick it up and continue reading so it took me 10 days to read a book which I should have devoured in a day or so.  Not a good sign!  At times it read like the outline of a better book, a black and white sketch waiting for someone to colour it  in.  It also felt a bit like a novella which had been stretched, kicking and screaming,  into a novel.



On the positive side, it’s well written, you’ll learn something about rooks and it captures the Victorians’ morbid fascination with death but it left me cold.



My thanks to Lovereading for giving me an ARC to review.  You can read more reviews of Bellman and Black on their site here. 

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  1. Charlie says:

    The whole outline for a better book idea, I know exactly what you mean and it is so frustrating! I read one just the other day and although it means there’s not much filler it’s not a good thing. I would love to read The Thirteenth Tale but from I think I’d have to give this one a miss.

  2. Sorry this one didn’t live up to expectations for you. I’m looking forward to trying it, but will try to keep myself realistic. I did love The Thirteenth Tale, and I can imagine it would be hard for anyone to follow that up.

  3. Teresa says:

    Charlie and Andi, you might fare better than me! Whilst I didn’t expect a re-run of The Thirteenth Tale, I did expect an engaging storyline and interesting characters. Looking at mixed reviews on Good Reads, I am not alone in feeling is way. So very disappointed. :-(

  4. Lainy SMBSLT says:

    I don’t think this one is for me but thanks for the enlightening review


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