Review by Shellie for Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
Shellie’s quick take: Set in England in the 1800’s, in a Yorkshire mill town and on the outskirts of London, this literary thriller has a dark, otherworldly, and mysterious thread with a hidden moral. It also includes facts and mythology about the Rook woven through its story-line.
Shellie’s description: Bellman & Black is primarily about the life of the main character, William Bellman. It begins on a fateful day when the youthful William kills a Rook (a crow of sorts found mostly in Europe) during a moment of bravado in front of a group of his amazed friends - via a lucky catapult from his slingshot. This unlikely once-in-a-lifetime strike turns out to be an example of the luck and success of William’s life. In addition to being lucky, he is handsome and driven, and the world appears to open its arms for the young man.
But like every human, life delivers William Bellman the hard knocks that are unavoidable. It is during one of these periods that he encounters Mr. Black - a man who is to become for William the metaphor for the one thing that he cannot escape.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is a gothic-like literary thriller. Although technically not a gothic novel, it has some aspects that make it feel like it is - for example there is that dark, moody feel to the tone of of the story. And because it is a literary novel from an established author, there is definitely strong character development. I found myself knowing and understanding the main character quite well. There is also a great plot with interesting ups and down throughout, including a light paranormal thread. Happily I found myself wondering what was going to happen next, including some nice chills every so often, that will appeal to horror fans.
I liked that the author uses lovely period-styled prose, though paradoxically she kept it modern-ish, giving the book an authentic feel without the difficulty of having to decipher the old-fashioned writing style often found in Victorian literature. I definitely liked this particular aspect of the novel, which is perfect for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
Recommended for anyone interested in literary thrillers and horror, those who enjoy a gothic feel to their reads, readers interested in a light paranormal element, and anyone who is interested in historical England. I would also recommend it to readers interested in birds. A terrific and well-written book, the author has apparently taken years to complete it and it shows. It’s highly recommended at 4 stars.
Atria/Emily Bestler Books | 336 pages | November 2013
For more information about Bellman & Black you can take a look at our Incoming Books post for November 8, 2013 including it.