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Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story
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Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story

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3.08  ·  Rating details ·  13,276 ratings  ·  2,978 reviews
ONE MOMENT IN TIME CAN HAUNT YOU FOREVER.

Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as i
...more
Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
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Joe Frazier I'm well over 3/4 through Bellman and Black. I'm slightly stunned with those who don't see this as from the same pen as The Thirteenth Tale. To me,…moreI'm well over 3/4 through Bellman and Black. I'm slightly stunned with those who don't see this as from the same pen as The Thirteenth Tale. To me, the same exquisite writing, the same "old school" pacing and request for thoughtful reading. Both are a bit on the weird, paranormal side, but equally brilliant. Now I get Pamela's comment below; she didn't like the content of The Thirteenth Tale. I feel like an alien amongst those who see this as wholly different and wholly worse than her previous book.

I held off reading it for a long time due to the many folks who made those comments. I regret waiting now (although I do get to enjoy it now). Give it a try if you like thoughtful reads, detailed descriptions, well-defined characters but somewhat slow pacing.

Forget about the whole Ghost story thing. (less)
Anna Zook
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3.08  · 
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 ·  13,276 ratings  ·  2,978 reviews


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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
If you loved The Thirteenth Tale, as I did, Bellman and Black will feel like it wasn't even written by the same author. I stayed with it through page 161. That's over half the book, so I gave it a fair shot, and way more of my time than it deserved. What is the stinking point of the story? Nothing happens. A lot of people die, but Setterfield doesn't make you care about them. If you want to read a boring novel about the textile industry, this is exactly the book you've been waiting for.
Amalia Gavea
‘’In the few minutes since the boys had left the place, rooks had come. They circled above the oak, fifteen or twenty of them. More were arriving from all directions. They stretched across the sky, loose skeins of dark marks, converging on this place. One by one they descended to alight in the branches of the tree. Ordinarily such a congregation would be accompanied by the noise of strong chatter as the birds flung sound at each other like gravel. This gathering was different: it took place in ...more
Beata
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Once Upon a River, I decided to check other novels by Diane Setterfield. Bellman & Black is did not disappoint me with its Gothic atmosphere and beautiful writing style. I somehow enjoyed the first part of the novel more, probably because it is so very much Victorian and I am not that much into horrors, however part two with its creepiness and the black colour omnipresent did give me some shivers ……. I believe Diane Setterfield is one of those authors whose every next book is b ...more
Rob Slaven
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shelfawareness
As usual, I received this book not through actually purchasing it but because someone gave it to me for review. In this case the book came from a galley giveaway on ShelfAwareness. Despite that kind consideration I'm still not afraid to roast even a free book with a scathing review. Luckily in this case, no such conflagration is necessary.

Firstly, it should be noted that I religiously avoid reading the back jackets of books, so going into this one I had only the cover and the subtitle "A ghost s
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Leanne
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield's first novel, was released in 2006 and was, in my opinion, fantastic. In the following years, as I do with all newly discovered favourite authors, I kept a close eye out for any news regarding upcoming novels. Every few months, I would hopefully Google "Diane Setterfield 2nd novel" and little would come up. And so, I've had 7 years (7 years! Not as bad as Donna Tartt's every-10-years record, and on par with Marisha Pessl, but still!) to anticipate and hype ...more
Sunny
Nov 02, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A Ghost Story. Pffttt! A ghost story my ass. How did that even get IN the title here? Because, it's not ANYWHERE in my book. Not on the cover. Not on the title page. Nowhere. It's Bellman & Black, A Novel. Full stop. No mention of 'A Ghost Story'. Anywhere.

I feel so cheated.

Imagine me, a grown woman, throwing myself onto the floor, kicking my feet, pounding my fists, and screaming in frustration. That just about perfectly describes the tantrum I envisioned myself having at the end. Because,
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Nancy Oakes
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic-fiction
Diane Setterfield is a new author for me & I wanted to try something in this genre out of my comfort zone, unfortunately this wasn't for me, although the beginning had me hooked but it was way to slow. William was an interesting character being a Bellman, there were so many red herrings in this it made my head spin was well written & crafted, just the pace of it was dragging, will try someone else in this genre you never give up after one book.
2.5 stars
Dem
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars


Bellman and Black is the long awaited novel from Diane Setterfield and like others I could not wait to get my hands on this gothic story.

I love the title of this novel and the cover as it gives a mysterious quality to the book before the reader even begins the story.

As a child William Bellman while out playing with his friends commits one small cruel act killing a bird with his slingshot. Little does he know that this action will bring on consequences in his adult life that he will h
...more
Robert
I’d have to say it’s rather difficult to describe my emotional state after finishing BELLMAN & BLACK: A GHOST STORY. On the one hand, this was a well-written, slowly developing story that caused me to contemplate the consequences of all my actions, not just the major, life changing experiences; on the other, it did have ghostly elements, but when I picture a ghost story, this isn’t exactly what I have in mind. It’s more of a literary ghost story where you realize the ghosts are there, but th ...more
Phrynne
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had read the reviews for this and was aware that many people did not like it so I started in with fear and trepidation. All unfounded because I really enjoyed it! It took a while to get into the story but by the second half I was completely engrossed and had to keep reading to the end. I loved the parallel chapters featuring the ravens and the little comments about the different names for a group of them. And the clever little paragraph at the end where we discover what ravens call a group of ...more
Virginie
Feb 16, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have been eagerly waiting for a second book by Setterfield, hope it will be as engrossing as the first one!
Blair
English author Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, was a big seller in America, reaching #1 in the charts. I didn't actually know this when I read it: I happened upon it at the library, thought it sounded like my kind of thing, and really enjoyed reading it, although I didn't find it particularly remarkable. Subsequently finding out about Setterfield's huge success in the US made me more interested in the author's next move than I probably would have been otherwise, and when I ...more
Paul
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ghost-stories
2.5 stars
Despite all the write ups saying this is a ghost story, for me it clearly is not. It is certainly a hefty slice of Victorian gothic which reads very easily. Essentially it is the life of William Bellman with some detailed descriptions of the milling business and the Victorian funeral industry. There is also a great deal about rooks and the mythology surrounding them. When he is ten William is playing with three friends. He aims his catapult at a bird at an impossible distance. By some f
...more
Patrice Hoffman
I don't remember being any more conflicted with a review rating as I am with Diane Setterfield's latest Bellman & Black. On one hand it's beautifully written and on the other, I just felt so hollow inside upon finishing it. After reading rave reviews for her bestseller The Thirteenth Tale I may have set the bar too high but... where can you go wrong when the word Ghost is a part of its title?

William Bellman is 11 when the story begins and progresses with him as an adult. Everything about Be
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*TUDOR^QUEEN*
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew from the book's synopsis that a pivotal moment in William Bellman's life was the day he killed a rook with a rock and catapult. This hardly seems like a momentous occasion, but this childhood incident weaves a mysterious and macabre thread throughout the book.

Set in early Victorian England, this story centers around the local Bellman Mill. William Bellman begins life with the handicap of being born of scandal. His father married beneath his family's station in life, and was shunned therea
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Sam Quixote
Dec 28, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bellman & Black wasn’t just the worst novel I’ve read all year (and I’ve read some humdingers this year!) but it’s down there amongst the worst novels I’ve ever had the misfortune to read.

The pathetic story (I can’t put enough quotation marks around that word so I won’t try) is about a Victorian entrepreneur called William Bellman who makes his mill a success and then sets up a successful funeral shop called Bellman & Black in London.

I shit you not, that is 97% of the book! Some 300 pa
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Helen
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed the Thirteenth Tale for several reasons but what struck me most about it was, simply, its wonderful, old-fashioned story-telling. It seems a perversely difficult thing to find in a book! (Zafon, for example, has it in truck loads). It's that little something that makes you want to crawl into a hiding place and stay there, undisturbed, until the book is finished.

Bellman and Black has this quality too; even while I was enjoying the sights of Vienna, the book was calling me - c
...more
Tania
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Beautifully written, but I struggled to connect with any of the characters. I could not feel happy or sad for them. I actually liked the first quarter of the book, but then the story just became flat. I felt no tension building towards the conclusion, and was left wondering, so what?

I am in no doubt that the author can write wonderful books, and I was captivated by her previous novel. Unfortunately this one missed the mark for me.

The story: As a boy, William Bellman commits one small cruel act t
...more
Susan
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Bellman is ten years old when, whilst out playing with his friends and cousin, he boasts that he can hit a rook with his catapault. The boys all believe that the rook will rise at the last moment - they all watch the stone as it falls and kills the bird. The moment stays in the back of William's mind, but life continues. The first half of the book follows this life; through childhood and then working his uncle's mill, through marriage and fatherhood. William Bellman is a driven man and, ...more
Maria Hill AKA MH Books
Simply put this is a tale of a man's life set in Victorian times. The man, William, has an almost preternatural knack and foresight for business and thrives and leads a good life. Like all lives, there is some sadness and regret, particularly over an incident in his childhood when he killed a rook. Halfway through though (his life and our story) tragedy strikes. This changes everything the nature of his life and the nature his new business. The second half of the story may be about madness, a ha ...more
Diane S ☔
3.5 As a young boy Bellman kills the wrong bird, a act that he will regret and that will haunt him all his life. Set in the mid 19th century, a prominent family that owns a textile mill, a mill that Bellman will eventually inherit., a man in black (no he is not an alien) and many losses.

This is a Gothic novel that creates an atmosphere of dread, with some outstanding and strong writing. The reader learns quite a bit about rooks, rooks never forget, and in this novel they represent doom and gloo
...more
Erica
Here's a quiet, beautifully-written story about life and death and grief. And black cloth.
I think it could be read either as a literary fiction with a touch of magical realism or psychological fiction with the feel of Victorian sensibilities. Read-alike authors could as easily be Edith Wharton or Alice Hoffman.

I liked this story about a man who runs from death, from grief. It was lyrical and slow-flowing. I was simultaneously disappointed that it wasn't more powerful, that more wasn't done with
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Mary
I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Real rating: 1.5


I’m really conflicted about this book. Writing wise, there’s absolutely, positively nothing wrong about this book. I liked the author's other book The Thirteenth Tale too.

This is a major case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” To be honest, I skimmed the last 30% of this book, and I really can’t say much of what happened because I did not care.

This book follows William Bellman, who accidentally kills a rook (
...more
Sharon Bolton
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“(A rook) is not just black, he is blacker than that. His is a luxurious superabundance of blackness never seen in any other creature.”

As a child, William Bellman kills a rook in an act of thoughtless cruelty. Decades later, his life becomes haunted by a mysterious man in black and his fortunes take a turn for the worse. In the desperate hope of clinging onto one person he loves, William makes a strange bargain with the man in black.

A driven man, William turns into the creative force behind a
...more
Jane
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I fell in love with Diane Setterfield’s first novel – ‘The Thirteenth Tale’ –and when a second novel with an intriguing title appeared after a long wait, my expectations soared. Maybe they went too high because, although I found some things to love, in the end I was disappointed.

A prologue set the story up beautifully. A group of boys, out playing in the countryside. One has a catapult, he sees a bird, he takes a shot, and the bird falls. Dead. He moved on, he quickly forgot, but at that moment
...more
Steven
I don't even really know where to begin with this review. I have never once felt like I completely wasted my time with a book as I did with this one. I kept waiting for action, for the "ghost" to have some real impact on the story, for something to happen other than talking repeatedly over and over and over about Bellman's business acumen, investments, ideas for more profit, etc.

But it never happened. It just kept going on and on and on and on, and nothing happened, other than we watched a man g
...more
Bonnie
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

‘Without the past to cast its long shadow, might you see the future more clearly?’

Bellman & Black is the story of William Bellman who’s life was irrevocably altered after killing a crow with a slingshot when he was eleven years old. The brief yet ominous event foreshadows his life to come. William leads a prosperous life
...more
Nikki
I got Bellman & Black from Netgalley a while ago, without really knowing anything about it. It turned out to be a smooth, easy read, but it didn't really get any emotional hooks into me. The narration is very straightforward after the opening chapter, which seemed to promise more by way of emotion -- the main character's courtship of his wife takes barely a chapter, and a short chapter at that! So with all that it's very hard to get involved in the rest of the novel. Despite all the death an ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Oh man. You know, I actually feel really bad for authors who hit it out of the park with their first book. I totally get why Harper Lee wrote a masterpiece and dropped the mic, man. There’s SO much pressure to come out with something that’s just as brilliant and/or as much of a bestseller. The Thirteenth Tale was wonderful; I adored every page on my first read through, and, though I loved it less the second time, it was still really good. Bellman & Black is not the follow up anyone will be e ...more
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Fiction novel boy kills raven with rock Victorian England becomes funerary supplies owner. [s] 4 16 Aug 29, 2018 09:47PM  
The ending??? 20 252 Feb 03, 2017 03:14PM  
Bad book,no; Bad readers 23 139 Dec 03, 2016 12:27PM  
The Gothic Novel ...: Bellman and Black 18 27 Sep 24, 2015 09:37AM  

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3,753 followers
“…a mistress of the craft of storytelling.”
The Guardian

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale (2006) was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being ‘a love letter to reading’ as for its mystery and style. Her
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“Without the past to cast its long shadow, might you see the future more clearly?” 20 likes
“People remembered. They wept and they grieved. In the spaces between, they were glad that the leeks were doing well this year, envied the bonnet of the neighbor's cousin, relished the fragrance of pork roasting in the kitchen on Sunday. There were those that registered the beauty of a pale moon suspended behind the branches of the elms on the ridge.” 6 likes
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