Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story
Author: Diane Setterfield
Paperback: 337 pages (ARE version)
Published date: October 2013
FTC: Requested to review from Atria
I was so excited when I saw Atria was offering the newest Diane Setterfield book. I really enjoyed her book The Thirteenth Tale (must re-read that one again) and thought this one sounded pretty good. I mean a ghost story for the fall. Diane Setterfield is a good writer. Beautiful really. But the story was just, well, boring. I think this would translate a lot better into a short story.
Back of the book:
One moment in time can haunt you forever.
As a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with his slingshot. The act is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games, but has unforeseen and terrible consequences. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, he seems to have put the whole incident behind him. But rooks don't forget. When a stranger mysteriously enters his life, William's fortunes begin to turn. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, he enters into a bargain. A rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business. And Bellman & Black is born.
I am a nerd for history. My undergrad degree is in history and I am just a sucker for things that probably are completely boring to other people. Bellman & Black is chock full of details. But even the historian fiend in me started yawning. I mean it IS interesting. If you want to know all about the Victorian era - how Bellman ran a country business selling wool and dyes. How he methodically expanded his business. How he eventually got into the Victorian craze for death and created a company that catered to the business of burying loved ones. All very well researched and in depth descriptions. But man. I just wanted to get to the ghost story part.
Which brings me to the ghost story part. I get that killing a bird as a boy would probably be a pretty memorably haunting event. But each chapter had a little section on rooks and while it started out interesting it just got boring and repetitive. Then the ending of the ghost story - to me - just fell flat. All that build up and all that detail....
As I said before, this would have made one fantastic short story. This story would appeal to you if you were really interested in rooks, Victorian era industry, or the Victorian era burial traditions.