Bellman and Black – Diane Setterfield
Source – www.lovereading.co.uk
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.