Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield


Begun 1/7/2014  – It’s been seven years in the waiting but, finally, the newest novel by Diane Setterfield is here! I adored The Thirteen Tale and have been waiting for more work by Setterfield ever since. So my Christmas was quite wonderful as this book was gifted to me. 🙂 Setterfield’s newest work, released in November 2013, Bellman & Black begins very promisingly, starting out with a boyhood proof of prowess, which leads to the death of an innocent rook and the enigmatic guilt settling upon the shoulders of the boy responsible: William Bellman. A boy in black, not to mention the strange parish of rooks, regards William from the hill where the rook fell beneath his slingshot, sending a chill over the ten-year-old boy as he runs home and applies his mind to its most difficult task to date: forgetting. But, as most would tell you, one act can haunt you for an entire lifetime.
Fast forward seven years and William Bellman is a comely young man of seventeen, talented, sharp-witted, admirable. After church one Sunday, his mother Dora is approached by her brother-in-law, her absconded husband’s brother, to request her blessing in his current idea: to invite William to work with him at Bellman’s Mill. Dora has no dealings with the Bellman family for the most part, as Phillip’s marriage to her went against their wishes. She is against the idea of William going into the business of the family that rejected him but he is excited and wishes to give it a try. As with almost everything else in his life, he is successful at each task to which he turns his hand, proving himself a hard and intelligent worker. There are but two tasks in the mill which he declines to even try, one of them being the dye house. Mr. Lowe, the head dyer, has no use for the prodigal Bellman boy, or pretty much anyone else for that matter. But William has ideas and enthusiasm. Within a year, William has accomplished the one thing that Bellman Mill was never able to produce: a good crimson fabric. As his uncle Paul wonders, the boy has been there only a year. What could he do if given free reign?
I love Diane’s writing style. It flows so well that the pages fly by. In a short amount of time, I had sped through 51 pages of this novel, ten chapters.  She modulates the length of chapters based on what needs to be said in each and, while some of them are exceedingly short, the effect is quite intense and poignant. I am already half in love with the character of William Bellman and appreciate his uncles conscientious consideration of the situations and ideas put before her. I also like the character of Dora, sad and bitter though she may be; her love for her son is undeniable.
I am looking forward to hiding away with this book once more…after my baby girl goes to bed. 😉
2/9/2014 – I have entered the part of the book where the title comes into play. I find myself fascinated with Bellman’s eye for color, specifically for black. Setterfield’s manner of describing how immersed in all shades of black Bellman has become that he has begun to view the colors of the world oddly – the azure sky of a summer day he now considers to be vulgar, the green grass so bright as to be improper. It’s a fabulous reversal of his previous position, starting out at Bellman Mill where he worked so hard to make sure that they would produce the more vibrant and sanguine  crimson fabric.
The attention to detail and knowledge of profession is staggering to me., truthfully. I am constantly impressed with the level of research and integration of information in Setterfield’s work. It is a level that I, as a writer, aspire to. 🙂
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