I loved Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale (2006) and have looked forward to another one of her books. When NetGalley offered Bellman and Black, I jumped at the chance to read her second novel.
I can see why it took so long for this book; the writing is impressive, graceful, and full of detail about rooks, mills, cloth, mourning accessories, and accounting. It is lovingly written.
So why didn't I like it? It started out well, full of atmosphere and a hint of mystery. I kept waiting for the story line to develop--you know, the rising action, the meat of the story. Finally, a bit of an inciting incident. Then... more details of the mill and Bellman's total immersion in his new business, with quotes about rooks thrown in at intervals to keep the reader mindful of the opening situation.
It took me forever to finish, and I read at least 10 books during the time I was reading B & B. When I would return to the book, I'd read awhile, then stop and pick up another book.
If the events in the book are a punishment for a child killing a rook with a slingshot, it seems totally out of proportion since young William never thought he could make the shot at such a distance. On the other hand, sympathy for the adult William ends shortly after the fever that hit the town passes.
The characters? The mill, the Bellman and Black mourning emporium, and maybe the rooks. William, Dora, and Lizzie become ciphers. I can see the theme, but by the end of the book (hard to call it a resolution), I simply was not concerned about the the characters--animate or inanimate.
Historical novel. Nov. 5, 2013. Print version: 336 pages.