Book Review: Bellman & Black

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review via NetGalley.

I admit I was thrilled when I found out that Diane Setterfield was publishing another book. After reading The Thirteenth Tale I was truly hoping she would write another book. And that wish was fulfilled with Bellman & Black. But part of me was worried as well. Could this book be as good as The Thirteenth Tale was? I also wondered if I could read this without comparing it to her other book. So I tried to go into this book with an open mind and doing my best to avoid thinking about her other book while reading this one.

Bellman & Black starts off slow, and I will admit I wasn’t even sure I was reading the story itself at first. There was no indication that what I was reading was the first chapter or even a prologue, but since it had the main character, William Bellman, in it I figured it was the story just not marked as such. That small section, though not identified as so, appeared to be the prologue giving the reader a bit of insight into William Bellman’s past and an event that shaped his life. Though this prologue beginning, as well as the first couple of chapters, were fairly slow I forged ahead knowing that not all books can start off with a quick pace and a solid tug to the readers attention.

As the story progresses, continuing on the slow side of things, quite a number of characters are introduced each having different levels of significance to William Bellman’s life. Some of these characters he has known since childhood while others are new to him. I can’t say that I felt any sort of connection to these various characters, and that goes for William as well.

Much like how the characters didn’t grab my attention the story also seemed to lack that something special to make me want to keep on reading. As I came to the half way mark I just wanted to set it off to the side and that’s exactly what I ended up doing for a short time. It seemed up to that point that while things had happened it felt as if almost nothing had happened. Not to mention there was a pattern of repetitive events that seemed to consume Williams life, mostly consisting of him working, someone in his life dying, him working some more, someone else dying and him diving back into work even more so. Even after quite a number of people died I found myself not caring, which says something since I normally find character deaths, be them minor or major characters, exciting and an extra appeal to the story added with each one. But that was not the case with this story.

After letting the book sit a couple of days I decided to once again pick it up, but I found it no less appealing than before. There was one small instance, where Bellman was starting to construct his mourning goods business that sparked a flicker an interest for me. Though as it progressed with the building being constructed and the materials being bought I once again found myself lulled into a sense of boredom over the story. There were the odd moments where the interest flickered back into existence but then it disappeared about as quickly as it came to be.

I think the overall feeling I had from this book was that there were simply too many words. Too many words? Yes, it felt as though there were too many words about too many things and very few of those words seemed to hold any significance. I found myself reading far too many details and then all seemed to blend together into one giant pile of details about something. Though what that something is I couldn’t honestly tell you.

Overall this book just didn’t hold up to the expectations I had for it. Yes, I tried very, very hard not to compare it to The Thirteenth Tale and I did a very good job of it. However I did expect it to be a lot better than it was. The story just didn’t seem to go anywhere significant for far too much of the book, the characters I had no connection with and other than a few points here and there I felt like I was almost being punished by reading this book. I know that sounds a bit harsh but this book held such little appeal to me by the end it’s really the only way to describe it. I know there are readers out there who will enjoy this story but I feel that they will be few and far between.

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