Bellman & Black – Diane Setterfield

Continuing with my creepy/mystical theme from my last post, my next read was much more gentle. Quietly poignant rather than overtly creepy (although it definitely has its moments!), I chose Bellman & Black because I loved The Thirteenth Tale so much – if you haven’t read that one, do! I think the latter just slightly has the edge, if we’re making comparisons… but Bellman & Black has the same dark beauty and cleverness, making it a very worthwhile way to spend a tube journey or three.

The narrative follows William Bellman, from a few days after his tenth birthday (the day he kills a rook with his catapult), all the way through his life and loves. The subtitle reads ‘A Ghost Story‘, but – not wanting to give too much away – it both is and isn’t. Don’t go in expecting a tell-it-around-the-campfire-with-a-torch-under-your-chin kind of yarn, or a horrific murder with lots of gory details… but do expect the bittersweet pangs characteristic of (in my opinion) the best kind of ghost stories.

That, and a heck of a lot of bird imagery!

Seriously, birds – rooks in particular – feature heavily, lending the whole thing a kind of Poe-esque feel. As a ten year old, William carefully aims his lovingly maintained catapult and fires – but at the same time, the death of the bird is not entirely purposeful either. He never expected to hit it. This ambiguity – and the resulting metaphor(s?) – carry the thread through the whole narrative in a pleasing and coherent way.

Well worth a read if (like me) you love a good ghost story.

LOL at the large print label… it was the only copy the library had!

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