Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Title: Bellman & Black
Author: Diane Setterfield
Read by: Jack Davenport
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio
Length: 9 CDs, approximately 10.5 hours
Source: Review Copy from Simon and Shuster Audio.  Thank-you!

I read and enjoyed Diane Setterfield previous novel, The Thirteenth Tale with my old Kewaunee Library Book club.  I was therefore very excited to be able to review her new novel, Bellman & Black.  I was not disappointed.

As a young boy, William Bellman created the perfect slingshot.  While with a group of his friends, he used the slingshot with a perfect aim to kill a rook.  This one act follows him for the rest of his life.  William is from the respected Bellman family that owns the town’s main employer, the mill.  His parents’ marriage was ill advised, and his father left his mother when William was quite young.  As he grew into a carefree young man, his Uncle Paul took notice and brought him into the mill.  William had a knack for business and soon was making the business boom.  By chance, he also meets the perfect woman and falls in love.  With the perfect wife and children and a fantastic business, William seemed to lead a blessed life until one day everything changed.

During this dark time, William meets a stranger, Mr. Black.  Upon his advice, William makes a reversal in his life and starts a new business in London, Bellman & Black. His life becomes an obsession with this business and making its profits grow enormously.  Meanwhile, the years past and William spends no time with his friends or family.  Were William’s sacrifices worth it?  

I was entranced by this audiobook.  As I listened to it, I felt like I was reading a Victorian novel by Dickens or Poe.  It had the right setting, but also a mysteriously otherworldliness about it that is hard to explain.  I loved the characters, the setting, and the storyline.  The story did have me crying on my drive home at one point as I cared so much about the characters.  It really brought home to me how horrible sickness was in a time before modern medicine.   I liked how the book changed focus halfway through and how the book ended.  I really would love to talk about this ending with someone and see what they thought about it.  This would make an excellent book club selection

Jack Davenport was a wonderful narrator for this audiobook.  His voice was soothing, but also brought the story to life.

Overall, I highly recommend Bellman & Black.  It is a great story of humanity, a ghost story, and a love story.  I loved it!


  1. The Thirteenth Tale has long been on my tbr list. Bellman & Black has been added too.

  2. Wonderful, enthusiastic review, Laura! It sounds as if you became quite emotionally invested in the characters and this story as a whole. It also sounds like a great audiobook to listen to during commutes (which is the time I listen to them). I'm intrigued by the ghost aspect of this story as well.