Search This Blog

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

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.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Historical novel.  Nov. 5, 2013.  Print version:  336 pages.


  1. Thank you for your honest review. I have read some positive reviews too, but am still undecided. Great review.
    -Dilettantish Reader

  2. I've read several positive reviews as well. Maybe B&B just wasn't what I was looking for at that particular time. It is always worth giving it a try!

  3. To bad you were disappointed after being so excited about the book.

  4. I didn't realize she had a new book out. I remember all the buzz with her first one. Sorry to hear it didn't quite live up to your expectations. I may put this one on my list but am not rushing to it!

  5. Stefanie - I hated not loving it as it was so beautifully written and maybe I was looking for something more like her first novel.

    Iliana - This one is one NetGalley. I read it a while back, and posted then on Goodreads, but waited until closer to publication date to post review on my blog. This is another book with decidedly different opinions. As much as I loved The Thirteenth Tale, I found B&B tedious.

  6. I have this but never did get around to reading it... I have a hard time reading the second books by favourite authors. I am not sure what that is about...

  7. Kailana - I can't recommend it, but many people love it. :\{