Friday, October 11, 2013


Bellman & Black: A Ghost StoryBellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Net Galley offered me a pre-publication copy of Diane Setterfield's ghost story, Bellman & Black, I immediately jumped the title to the top of my book pile.

Her first offering was The Thirteenth Tale, which I read in 2007 and loved so much that I included it in a Readers' Advisory Workshop I presented for Michigan Librarians. (Apparently there will be a made-for-television movie in the United Kingdom by the end of this year. Vanessa Redgrave stars as the aging author, Vida Winter.)

If you look at reviews already written about Bellman & Black, which goes on sale November 5, 2013, you will find a wide variety of opinions.

The descriptive writing is lovely, but I have to confess that I sometimes had trouble following the narrative and being sure who characters were. The premise of the story, punishing a man many years later for a childhood mistake, seemed extreme although I suppose ghost stories aren't totally logical.

Some of the characters that seemed more interesting than Mr. Bellman, who was driven to work and acquire wealth, were given short shrift, like his daughter Dora. Watching so many good people die too soon because of no other reason than because they were part of William Bellman's life was disturbing.

In a odd happenstance, I had just finished reading Shopping, Seduction, and Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead, the true story of Harry Selfridge, the founder of London's great department store.  His work ethic and style matched William Bellman's. And both were creating emporiums, although Selfridge's was a testament to life while Bellman's was dedicated to the trappings of Victorian death.

Bellman & Black seems like a story that is not completely fleshed out and it left me feeling unfulfilled. I was disappointed, but perhaps my expectations were set too high by The Thirteenth Tale, which I still highly recommend.

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