Bellman & Black

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote anything substantial on this blog, but my lack of writing has been made up for by an overdose of reading. Actually, I don’t think you can overdose on reading. The book I finished last week was called Bellman and Black. It was written by a British author named Diane Setterfield. She has written another novel called The Thirteenth Tale that I have yet to read.

Bellman and Black is very dark and gothic in nature and the tale it tells is one of disquiet, fear and of obsession; or at least of obsessive compulsive behaviour. The main character of the story is William Bellman. The story follows his upbringing, career and family life, and of how an event in his childhood seemingly brings him misfortune until he makes a deal with a mysterious partner, or at least he believes that’s what has taken place. Early on we are introduced to Bellman’s obsessiveness with details, – each of his business endeavours becoming successful as he checks off endless lists of requirements. I think it is the constant listing of what Bellman thought of, selected, bought or had made etc that made me feel kind of tired while reading this book. It felt as though I was reading an inventory or business plan. By the second or third new expansion or endeavour he undertook, you knew he’d be getting to grips with the details … so do we need to be told exactly what he bought, who he employed and so forth, especially when these particulars had little impact on the narrative. Yep, he’s OCD, we get it.

I also felt as though the story wasn’t tied together well enough. I don’t mind a work of fiction being open-ended, but for mine the ending didn’t really explain what happened during the rest of the story – were all of his misfortunes just coincidence? How did the rook’s final actions relate in any way to the other misfortunes that befell Bellman? Were those misfortunes simply revenge and if so what made the rook wait to get what he ultimately would have taken anyway?

All in all while I did find Bellman and Black entertaining to read, I felt somewhat unsatisfied at the end. I might put it away and have a second reading sometime in the future – I might get something I missed on a second inspection.