Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
Series? No
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Date: November 5, 2013
How did I get this book? free Advance Reader's Copy from the publisher via Shelf Awareness/Atria Galley Alley for my honest review
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

I was so excited to read this book because I absolutely adored Ms. Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale. This was by no means a bad book, but I can't help but feel it pales a little in comparison. It took me a long time to read despite its short number of pages (328) and after a beginning that really grabbed me, I felt like it started to drag a bit. Ironically, I think it would actually be a good book to re-read knowing how everything turns out, but I probably won't get to that any time soon! Before you get the idea that this is a completely negative review though, let me move onto the many good things about this novel. I love the historical setting and the gothic tone. The writing itself is excellent and I loved the character of William Bellman. Watching as he changed from a happy, successful, ambitious young man into a broken older one obsessed with growing his business in order to ward off that which haunts him was both sad and fascinating to witness.

This book really made me think about the roles work, money, ambition, mistakes, regret, and loss play in a someone's life and how those things can change a person. As I was reading this book, I was also re-reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and I couldn't help but draw some comparisons to the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. While Bellman's actions are at first driven by a desire to save his daughter and salvage what little is left of his family, he becomes so obsessed with his work and increasing his profits that he misses out on so many other aspects of life. He is not motivated by greed, but rather truly believes he is doing what he must to uphold his end of a "deal with the devil," so to speak. In the end, he barely even sees the daughter he so desperately wanted to save and has no life outside of his work.

So would I recommend this book? Yes and no. I do not recommend that you pick it up for the sole reason that it is written by the same author as The Thirteenth Tale. Be aware of how different this story is and know what you are getting into. As far as ghost stories go, this one is rather subtle. If you are looking for something very scary or suspenseful, this is probably not the book for you. But if you have any interest in exploring some of the themes I've mentioned, it is definitely worth a read.

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18 comments:

  1. I've been debating buying this book for a few weeks now. While it is staying on my To Read list, I think I'll hold off until I finish some of the other books that I just received & bought this holiday season!

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  2. I agree with everything here - there are some really positive elements to this book but overall it is nowhere near as good as The Thirteenth Tale.

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    1. All this discussion about her first book is really making me want to re-read it!

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  3. I've been hesitant to read this as I didn't love Thirteenth Tale as much as everyone else did. The fact it is so different might actually be a good thing, then!

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    1. That's a very good point! I hope you enjoy it if you read it :)

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  4. Exactly, this book doesn't even begin to compare to The Thirteenth Tale, but it was still good.

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    1. When I first saw your review was a 3-star, I didn't want to read it in full until I finished the book -- I kept hoping for more for this one, but in the end, I think we felt very similarly about it :/

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  5. I own The Thirteenth Tale, but I still haven't read it yet. It sounds like I should focus on that one instead of this. Good to know! :)

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    1. The Thirteenth Tale is such a great book for book-lovers, which is probably why so many of us loved it so much -- it has bookshops, a bookworm main character, family secrets, and all that fun stuff -- I hope you like it!

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  6. I also have The Thirteenth Tale on my Kindle but I haven't read it yet, hopefully I get to it this year. Nice review :)

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    1. I think you would enjoy the writing in both books Riv, but I highly recommend her debut :)

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  7. I haven't read The Thirteenth Tale, but I have been a bit hesitant to pick this up because it sounds so dark. Thanks for the great review!

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    1. I can't recommend The Thirteenth Tale enough -- it is also a bit dark and gothic, but a really excellent read. It is definitely one of my favorites.

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  8. My mum absolutely loved The Thirteenth Tale but I've heard such mixed reviews about this one that I wasn't sure whether to buy it for her birthday?

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    1. That's a tough call -- I don't think every fan of her first book will like the second book because they are quite different, but I do think this one is worth reading for anyone who enjoys her writing style. You should both know that it is a much different reading experience. I'm sure that's not a great help, but you'd definitely know her tastes better than me!

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  9. I haven't read The Thirteenth Tale (I want to!) and I wonder if that might make it more likely that I'd enjoy Bellman & Black? I've read a few reviews in a similar vein to yours - not negative but not loving it - and it sounds good enough to give it a go, maybe better when you've no expectations? I like the comparison to Dickens as I read A Christmas Carol a few weeks ago and the idea of a character like but better than Scrooge is appealing.

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    1. Not having any preconceived notions about what a follow-up might be like really might help in this case. I think it would be very interesting to read them out of order, so to speak. You'd be doing the opposite of most of the rest of us, so it would be a unique perspective.

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I'd love to hear what you think :)