Monday, 11 November 2013
Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield.
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.
Thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read this story in exchange for an honest review.
I chose this as my Halloween themed read due to the mention of a ghost in the title. Sadly the ghost in this story isn't a ghost in the normal sense. During a chance meeting at several funerals Bellman sees a man who he thinks he knows and indeed starts calling Mr Black. It's at one of these funerals that Bellman meets and strikes up a bargain with Mr Black but is Mr Black all he appears to be?
William Bellman appeared to have it all, a family that he loved and his job working in a mill that he was making a huge success of running. As events in his personal life occur his world is turned upside down but his business life continues to thrive. Bellman is obsessed with all things funereal and opens a shop calling it Bellman & Black, as the shop becomes more and more successful it becomes a monster and to me Black becomes the shop and not a person anymore. His work becomes all consuming, as if he's haunted by it and this is at the expense of his Family life. As the shop becomes more and more of a Monster, Bellman in turn becomes less and less of a man.
There is an underlying theme to the story, that being the sightings almost haunting like of a Rook or several Rooks at different times. We are also fed tidbits about rooks as the story is told. It's only later on in the story that Bellman remembers killing the rook when he was a lad and perhaps he hadn't realised the significance of the rook sightings/hauntings.
The reader is left to draw their own conclusion as to who or what the ghost in the story is, as the story comes to its inevitable conclusion.
This story is set in Victorian England and we do learn quite about the customs surrounding Victorian funerals and mourning rituals. It's Gothic in nature and quite reminiscent of other stories set in that period of history. It's a slow burner at times but it kept me reading in order to find out what happened to Bellman.
If you're a fan of historical themed reads with a hint of the Gothic thrown in then this is the book for you.