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Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Bellman & Black

by Diane Setterfield

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1,01014712,674 (3.27)87
  1. 20
    The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (ddelmoni)
  2. 00
    Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds by Bernd Heinrich (ehines)
    ehines: If all the business about rooks in Bellman & Black was intriguing, you can read lots of interesting facts about their cousins the ravens in Heinrich's closely studied book.

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English (144)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
I didn't dislike Bellman & Black, but it didn't wow me. (I *really* liked Setterfield's "The Thirteenth Tale" and "Once Upon a River.") It dragged on—I think it would have more impactful if shorter (more tightly written). ( )
  joyblue | Feb 19, 2019 |
Certainly not as wonderful as The Thirteenth Tale, one of my favorite books. Enjoyable, but too long. ( )
  rmarcin | Jan 22, 2019 |
Will Bellman is growing up in Whittingford, England, when, on his tenth birthday, playing with his cousin Charles and two other local boys, he makes a really excellent catapult and, in a moment of bravado, says he's going to use it to hit a rook sitting on a tree branch a good distance away.

It's so improbable a feat that all the boys, including Will, are laughing at the idea--but the stone he launches does hit, and kill, the bird.

It's a small incident, surely of no lasting significance. Yet it will subtly haunt Will for the rest of his life.

We follow Will through the seemingly charmed first part of his life and career, an assistant to his uncle at Bellman's Mill, a happy marriage, the arrival of healthy, happy, much-loved children.

And then we are with him as things change.

This is a beautifully written story, with characterization of subtlety and depth, and marvelous evocation of mood. Will's success is not the operation of outside forces; he's smart, insightful, inventive, hard-working. He's impetuous at first, but learns from his mistakes, and has real consideration for others. No, his success is not unearned.

Yet there's an accidental act of cruelty back at the very beginning of it. The consequences will catch up with him--yet that, too, will be subtle, and thoughtful, and a surprise, not the payback the reader may expect until very near the end.

Bellman & Black is a really fine ghost story to read and savor as the darkening end of the year closes in on us.

Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
A very good book. As this is the 2nd book I've enjoyed by Setterfield, I think this is definitely an author to follow. ( )
  CSKteach | Jul 20, 2018 |
It was not until the second half of this book and the introduction of Black that I became quite interested in the narrative. There were nice details about the dynamic between William, his mother, and his paternal family in the beginning. However, certain storylines, particularly those between Paul and Dora, and William and his father never seemed resolved. The death of William's family struck me as sudden, and not staged effectively. It was akin to bowling pins dropping at one point. I was left wondering at the end whether or not the deaths of the many people in William's life and the timing of them related to the "murder" at the beginning of the book as that was never fully explained. As an aside, I also saw that the hardcover edition had the subtitle 'a ghost story' when I was three-quarters of the way through this novel, and it altered the way I read the rest of the story.

Edit: As another user pointed out, Christine Cavalier's review at the website PurpleCar helps explain the themes of the story that confused me previously. ( )
  Kylalala | Jun 24, 2018 |
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Information from the Russian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
You will have seen rooks.
Don’t be put off by any sense of familiarity.
Rooks are enveloped in a glorious sky-cloak of mystery.
They’re not what you think they are.
For my parents Pauline and Jeffrey Setterfield who, amongst other things, taught me everything I needed to know about catapults.
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I have heard it said, by those that cannot possibly know, that in the final moments of a man’s existence he sees his whole life pass before his eyes.
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Book description
Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 11, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who "could go to the good or the bad." And indeed, although William Bellman's life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife's fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called "Bellman & Black" . . . ---------------------------------------------As a boy, William Bellman commits one small cruel act that appears to have unforseen and terrible consequences. The killing of a rook with his catapult is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. And by the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, he seems indeed, to be a man blessed by fortune. Until tragedy strikes, and the stranger in black comes, and William Bellman starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. 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.
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Killing a bird with his slingshot as a boy, William Bellman grows up a wealthy family man unaware of how his act of childhood cruelty will have terrible consequences until a wrenching tragedy compels him to enter into a macabre bargain with a stranger in black.… (more)

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