Rob Slaven's Reviews > Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 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 story" to go on. Because of that I spent a fair amount of time looking for the literal ghost only to find that the ghosts that haunt William Bellman are of a completely different sort than one generally expects from children's literature.

On the positive side of things, this book is a deliciously subtle story of one man's haunted life. Setterfield weaves her story and her characters together with a sagacious and haunting assiduousness that pulls the reader gently along from one short chapter to the next. This is an acutely wrought novel with a tenacious grip on realism while still washing the entire scene in an afterglow of the supernatural. I've not read anything this well written in quite some time. Our author brings us a tale as unhurried and as natural as life itself.

The only real negative I can put forth is really more of a warning to potential readers. This is a great book but it's likely not for everyone. For those accustomed to the pablum of easy modern literature, I suggest humbly that you look elsewhere. For those reading by the pool in the joyous light of day, perhaps your time is better spent between other pages. But if you find yourself in a darkened room listening to the rumble of far-away thunder, then this may be the book for just that setting. It is not a gripping thrill ride, but it does take you gently by the hand and pull you quietly into another world where the sky harbors a thousand watching eyes and time does not undo all wrongs nor heal all wrongs.

Rob Slaven
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 4, 2013 – Shelved
September 4, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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Claudine Excellent review and analysis.

Cecily Exactly this. I can't fathom the crummy reviews this book is getting. I finished it about 10 minutes ago and, while a little flummoxed, I can't deny that the book was brilliant and I read it in less than 2 days. :)

message 3: by Ludmilla (new) - added it

Ludmilla Stevens-Filatov I agree. It was truly a journey. It hurts to watch a man like Bellman to run away from life, to take the dead-end road and waste the intelligence and soul on building the phantom.Yet, that's where we can argue the point. Purpose of life? Meaning of love? Loyalty? Betrayal?
It was a good, substantial reading. Highly recommend to serious readers.Not a trashy romance.

Bookman8 Some people do not understand that books are meant not just to entertain, but to challenge and encourage us to think on the deeper and darker things in life. This was a brilliant book for the reader willing to take it on. For those that think it is about the Victorian textile industry....Moby Dick is not just about the whaling industry either!

Connie Clairday  Hensley Great review! Absolutely loved this book.

message 6: by Amanda (new)

Amanda B Hi, thanks for this! I loved The Thirteenth Tale and started Once Upon a River just now, but I’ve been hesitant to read this one based on not-so-great reviews. I just might try it now, though.

Sharon Stover I'm early into this book. I listen to most of my books, generally during my long commute and at night before bed. I started with Once Upon a River and absolutely loved it. It was the best book I've read in a very long time. The writing was fantastic, the story was unique and interesting. I then read The Thirteenth Tale and loved it just as much. I did hesitate to read this book due to the poor reviews here and on audible, but loved her writing so much that I took a chance and here I am. I was drawn into the first 2 books immediately, but this one is taking more time. Still wonderfully written, though.

Lori Thank you for this excellent review of an extraordinary book.

message 9: by Mary (new)

Mary Wonderful review!!!!

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