Bellman & Black. Diane Setterfield. Publishing on October 8th, 2013 by Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books.
A single moment can affect your entire life. Who knew it would be such an insignificant thing that changed William Bellman’s life so utterly and completely? Killing a rook took everything from him. Agree terms, sell, collaborate. All lead back to one thing: the mysterious man in black and saving the very last precious thing in Bellman’s life through what can only be called a ‘macabre business bargain’. Rooks never forget.
The story follows William Bellman from his 10th birthday into him having his own full-fledged family and business, along with brief intermissions of pages from a ornithology book, teaching you anything you might want to know about rooks and their peculiar mythology. Within a good twelve pages, I was hooked on Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. With short, staccato chapters of generally 3 to 5 pages, it is a traveling reader’s best friend. I could just about put it down, neatly at the end of any chapter without ever having to really worry about finding just exactly where I left off. For a book that follows a boy from a young age until he is an adult, it is much shorter and fast-paced than you might expect. At a mere 337 pages, Bellman & Black is what most would call a light read. However, it reads heavily and rings out loudly. It gives the air of a slice of life, but once in a great while it reminds you unabashedly that there are more unseemly things to deal with than just William Bellman’s day to day.
It took me awhile to warm up to William Bellman. While I grew attached to him, I hardly noticed it until things started to go wrong for him. He wasn’t someone who clicked in my mind so well for me to immediately say, “I like him.” Nor did I immediately dislike him either. He seems like middle of the road character as far as how much you like him. But then, when things go wrong, you find yourself on the edge of your seat hoping for everything to work out of William. He turns into the character you want to protect from all the bad things that could happen without you even realizing it from one page to the next. Considering he is predominantly the character we hear about, we sympathize very heavily with him. However, there are a good abundance of side characters that you feel for. There’s Paul, William’s uncle, who brings him under his wings. There’s Rose and Dora, who become the staples of William’s home life. Plus a plethora of other characters we hear a good amount about.
There were some character name fudges that were confusing and some slights in grammar and formatting, but nothing that couldn't be handled by a quick once over. All in all, a pretty top read.
A quick word of caution: this book is incredibly good, but it moves at the odd in-between pace of quick and slow that it is hard to pick back up if set down for too long. Still, definitely worth a read - maybe not to buy, but at least check it out at the local library!
I received a copy from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.