Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

BellmanandBlackBellman and Black is Diane Setterfield‘s much awaited and anticipated follow up to her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale. Like her previous work, Bellman and Black is a rather dark, gothic tale. At the age of ten, William Bellman kills a rook with his catapult or sling shot in a long shot. That rook comes to haunt him for the rest of his life in various forms.

Based on such a description, Bellman and Black does not really seem like my type of book. My expectations for it were not that high. The only reason I read it was because Setterfield’s previous book was so wonderful. In spite of my lowered expectation, Bellman and Black was a surprisingly good read. To me this is due to Setterfield’s writing. From the first pages, reading Bellman and Black felt like slipping into a pair of perfectly worn in shoes. To be frank, the bare bones of the story appear to be quite boring to me, yet her writing made me keep reading. Did I need to know that much about mill work and the fabric industry of the late 1800’s? No, but I soon became as obsessed with it as William Bellman.

In fact Bellman’s character development throughout the book may have been the thread that really held this book together for me. His transformation from an underdog type character, someone who you are really rooting for, into a haunted and single minded man was convincingly depicted. And though tragedy filled his life, there was not an overly tragic feeling to the story.

Who would like this book? As I mentioned before, this is a rather dark and gothic tale. If that is what attracted you to The Thirteenth Tale, then this book will scratch that itch. I also think lovers of historical fiction will enjoy it. I found the details relating to Spanish influenza, cloth production and funerary practices to be quite enlightening. Bellman and Black would also be a good book club pick for the literary minded. It is filled with symbolism, much of which I likely missed. I really hate that some books are labelled as ‘women’s fiction’ or ‘men’s fiction’, but I do think this is one that can truly span both categories. In spite of being written by a woman, it is a story of a male world.

I was provided with the book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.


  1. I didn’t like the Thirteenth Tale much, but I do enjoy dark Gothic books, so I’m somewhat intrigued. But something tells me I’ll have similar feelings to this book as I did with the Thirteenth Tale.

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