Thursday, September 4, 2014
Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
I remember spending a sunny Sunday afternoon sitting on the couch and reading Henry James' The Turn of the Screw for my high school English class. Totally mesmerized, and so scared I didn't dare take my eyes off the page, for fear of what I might see lurking in the corners of the room. Now that's my idea of a Gothic tale!
Diane Setterfield's Bellman & Black is, to my mind, just such another unsettling tale. Her premise is simple: a young boy's careless act affects the whole course of his life and inflicts a remorseless penance. The working out of this --- self-inflicted? --- curse is rendered in carefully chosen detail. Setterfield wields language like an artist wields his brush. One reviewer suggested that this book is Setterfield's homage to Charles Dickens and the Victorian preoccupation with death and mourning.
Reviews have been mixed. This is Setterfield's second novel; her first, The Thirteenth Tale, a re-imagining of Jane Eyre, was hailed as a modern masterpiece. Fans of that book have been waiting seven years for Setterfield to repeat herself. Bellman & Black, if it was judged on its own merits and not by comparison, would I think have fared better. The book has certainly generated a lot on conversation among book bloggers.
Click HERE to read a review of Bellman & Black.
Click HERE to watch a great trailer for the book!