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Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story | [Diane Setterfield]

Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story

As a boy, William Bellman commits one small, cruel act: killing a bird with his slingshot. Little does he know the unforeseen and terrible consequences of the deed, which is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to be a man blessed by fortune - until tragedy strikes and the stranger in black comes. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, William enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.
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Publisher's Summary

As a boy, William Bellman commits one small, cruel act: killing a bird with his slingshot. Little does he know the unforeseen and terrible consequences of the deed, which is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to be a man blessed by fortune - until tragedy strikes and the stranger in black comes. Then he starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, William enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.

©2013 Diane Setterfield (P)2013 Simon & Schuster

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (188 )
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 (42)
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4.2 (171 )
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  •  
    Amy 11-30-13
    Amy 11-30-13 Member Since 2007

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A 'Slow Burn' Gothic Tragedy"

    I loved Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, and I was eager to devoir her next work. What Setterfield has produced here is, in my opinion, a work less enjoyable to read and yet similarly well worth reading.

    Let me explain.

    This is not a mystery in any sense, but rather a classic Gothic novel, working out its dark message with all the unflinching inevitability of works such as Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables. From the moment 11-year-old William Bellman pointlessly kills a young rook with his slingshot, the reader knows things will go badly for him. As he labors to build his adult life -- with loving wife, healthy children, and thriving business -- the reader realizes he will rise to heights only to fall. Not once was I surprised at what befell Bellman. That is not necessarily a criticism. We don't watch the proverbial train wreck because we think the tracks will mysteriously reroute themselves at the last minute; we watch the proverbial train wreck for the edifying and horrifying majesty of the collision.

    For that matter, there is something hauntingly reassuring in the idea -- even as it damns all of us -- that actions, however small and thoughtless, have consequences.

    Just as, in the proverbial train wreck, watching the long lead-up to the tragedy has a certain oppressive inevitability that frustrates and wears at the nerves, so too does the bulk of Bellman and Black. This is why, despite Setterfield's gorgeous prose, it is not an enjoyable read. Once the reader completes the work and gains a bit of distance, though, it comes into full focus.

    Drawing from folklore and legend about rooks, Setterfield stresses thought and memory as the two most terrible costs of Bellman's childhood act of murder: for the last long portion of his life, Bellman thinks only of death as he painstakingly builds Bellman & Black's to be London's premiere mourning emporium; he loses all memory of the happy home he knew with his family and the satisfying work he accomplished at the mill. His daughter, his sole remaining tie to humanity, grows to adulthood without his attention or awareness.

    Setterfield expertly twines the narrative around different aspects of the mysterious, wise, and vengeful rook, using the various collective nouns for the birds -- a parish of rooks, a clamor of rooks, an unkindness of rooks, a parliament of rooks, and ultimately a storytelling of rooks -- as both an underlying theme of and a commentary on various sections of the story. The chilling final note of the book, that we short-lived and fallible humans are an entertainment, puts Bellman and his fall in proper context from a rook's perspective.

    I appreciate Setterfield's artistry in the organization and symbolic depth of her tale, as well as her admirable restraint in the supernatural aspects of the story. If you're looking to fall in love with charming characters or be caught up breathlessly in an unfolding mystery, look elsewhere. But for a sobering, bleak, and carefully crafted tale about the human condition written in the great Gothic tradition, you need look no further.

    Jack Davenport provided a solid narration for this novel.

    23 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer south carolina 03-14-14
    Amazon Customer south carolina 03-14-14

    avid reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "huh?"
    Would you try another book from Diane Setterfield and/or Jack Davenport?

    I loved the thirteenth tale so I probably will give the author one more try.


    What could Diane Setterfield have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    this book tried too hard to be mysterious but the story was so bogged down with the minutia of bellman's daily life. halfway in I didn't care what happened to anybody.


    What does Jack Davenport bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I think he did a great job with a bad book.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    boredom, apathy.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sue Johns Creek, GA, United States 01-18-14
    sue Johns Creek, GA, United States 01-18-14 Member Since 2011

    Favorite books. The Seven Waters Trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicles, The Alchemyst Nicholas Flamel.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "SADLY DISAPPOINTED"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    I was so looking forward to this new release from Diane Setterfield as The Thirteenth Tale was so very good...but sadly this book was boring and predictable. I kept waiting to find out what "the point" was to this tale, but that's the problem, there isn't a point. It was dark, but without an interesting storyline. I kept falling asleep. After The Thirteenth Tale, I just could not make myself give up on the story, but I never felt the satisfaction that I understood what the story was about other then a sad and depressing tale of a man's sad and depressing life.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Diane Setterfield again?

    Yes, and I am hopeful that she'll thrill us with an intriguing and complex story such as she did with The Thirteenth Tale.


    What about Jack Davenport’s performance did you like?

    The highlight of the book! His voice was perfect for the character and that alone was the only thing that was done right.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The narrator


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    beth LEAGUE CITY, TX, United States 01-07-14
    beth LEAGUE CITY, TX, United States 01-07-14 Member Since 2011

    I am easily amused!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the best of 2013"

    This is an absolutely extraordinary book by a brilliant author. Don't miss it. Absolutely spellbinding! The narration is done by Jack Davenport who lends the perfect voice for the characters. Although to be honest I could listen to Davenport read a phone book and be perfectly content.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Xuunam 11-07-13
    Xuunam 11-07-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Memory and thought"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. Setterfield's prose is exquisite. She weaves dark sensual landscapes and folklore into a rich narrative.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The imagery created by the author's prose and the characters.


    What does Jack Davenport bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He is excellent.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No, but I developed an intimacy with the characters and a sadness in response to their suffering.


    Any additional comments?

    Although the plot is not as clever as her previous work, she still held me spellbound.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tracy thatcher, AZ, United States 12-03-13
    tracy thatcher, AZ, United States 12-03-13 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nevermore"

    Not everyone will like this one, but I did. I love how Diane Setterfield takes books like Jane Eyer in the Thirteenth Tale and now Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven and constructs a new story around the same premise. If you don't get "The Raven" you probably won't get Bellman and Black. The story is so well done. It is a slow moving story of the life of William Bellman. He spends half of his life in pursuit of riches, but at what price? The Raven's sorrowful words of "never more" are brought to mind over and over again. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It makes me want to enjoy the relationships of those around me and never take a moment for granted of the time I have with those I hold so dear.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Klett Houston, TX USA 08-28-14
    Elizabeth Klett Houston, TX USA 08-28-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Good book, fabulous performance"
    Any additional comments?

    Jack Davenport has a smooth, deep, silky voice that is perfect for creating an air of menace and foreboding, which is perfect for this story. He does a first-rate job.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa chicago, IL, USA 12-02-13
    Lisa chicago, IL, USA 12-02-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Disappointing"

    I looked forward to reading another book from this author of The Thirteenth Tale. However,I did not enjoy Bellman and Black. Very slow and somewhat predictable story. I frequently had to go back and relisten to parts because my mind would wander.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eeyorezsmile 05-08-15 Member Since 2014
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    "I wanted this to be good"

    I am a huge fan of the authors first, The 13 Tail. Sadly, this book is slow, boring, it never really goes anywhere… I recommend getting The 13th Tale instead.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Frazier Cary, NC USA 01-03-15
    Joe Frazier Cary, NC USA 01-03-15 Member Since 2014

    a dedicated dilettante

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Exquisite Character Study in Perfect Prose"

    Bellman and Black is a dark, brooding and brilliant study of a man whose life is at first smiled upon and then struck through with utter disaster. From the beginning, he was especially talented and diligent businessman whose whole life eventually revolved around work. A number of reviews have remarked that this book was a let down after her utterly brilliant debut in The Thirteenth Tale. Indeed, some have gone on to say that it seems to be written by a different author. That puzzles me in that this seems to be exactly the kind of book she would write; it is in keeping with her writing style, her focus on characters and dark events overshadowing lives. Admittedly, it doesn't have the narrative drive of The Thirteenth Tale, but it seems to match in almost every other way.

    The protagonist, William Bellman, starts life a fairly normal lad with a bit of ambition and talent whose uncle runs the cloth mill, the villages main industry. Through his tutelage, William quickly becomes indispensable at the mill. He goes on to marry, Rose, the perfect girl, and have a grand family. Alas, he always worked a bit too much but not excessively so. That beings to change as he takes over the mill. Alas, tragedy strikes his life and his life is his work. He also now views his life through the lens of a mission; what he believes is a purpose to which he agreed. He made a kind of bargain with, what appears to be, a Grim Reaper with a nod to Norse mythology.

    As I am wont to do, I went between the Kindle and Audible audiobook. Jack Davenport (of Pirates of the Caribbean and Coupling fame) is the perfect voice for this book. The tone of his voice, the pacing of the narration and phrasing and emphasize of the words are absolutely spot on. It's one of the best examples of straight narration I've heard. Whilst I recommend reading the book to linger on the language, I equally recommend this book based on the fantastic performance Mr. Davenport provides.

    For full review: http://wp.me/p2XCwQ-14e

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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