I was so excited to open the package that revealed I had been the lucky recipient of the following ARC:
For those who are unfamiliar with Diane Setterfield, she is the author of the bestselling novel The Thirteenth Tale. You should run to a library, or better yet, a bookstore (let’s get a deserving author some royalties!), and grab a copy of her previous novel. Particularly if you like gothic fiction and/or the novel Jane Eyre.
I adored The Thirteenth Tale. I adored that novel so much that I was worried Bellman & Black couldn’t live up to Setterfield’s debut novel. For me, this worry proved to be correct.
Bellman & Black is the story of William Bellman’s struggle with death. A death that he caused, the death of those he loved or knew, and, of course, his own. As a result, Bellman & Black is pretty depressing. There are books about death that are beautiful; in my opinion, this is not one of them. This book is bleak and odd and disconcerting, which is not inappropriate, given the subject matter.
Based on the blurbs of the book I had read, I was expecting a dark story that was full of magic. Yet, now that I have read the novel, I don’t feel these blurbs were very accurate. Or rather, I felt that the story alluded to a particular type of magic – that found in mythology.
In particular, the theme of ravens that permeates the novel has a feeling of mysticism, wisdom, and an unconquerable defeatism often associated with zombies.
Don’t get me wrong; Bellman & Black is not a horrible novel. It’s well written, the character of William Bellman is drawn with broad strokes, but is understood by the reader. It just wasn’t quite the novel I was hoping to read, particularly when the novel The Thirteenth Tale was.
I would maybe recommend this novel as one to borrow from the library. On the scale of suckage to awesome-ness, I give Bellman & Black 3 ripe bananas – it’s the type of book that’s good when you’re in the mood for this type of book.