Sunday 1 December 2013

Bellman & Black

Finished November 30
Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

This novel centers around William Bellman. When William is ten years old, her makes a challenge to himself in front of his friends that he can hit a bird with a shot from his slingshot, a shot that should be beyond him, but he does indeed hit the rook and kills him.
Years later his paternal uncle offers him a position at the family mill, and discovers that William has an aptitude for the work, good at analyzing, good with numbers, and good with people. William's father had run off when he was only an infant and his grandparents had cut William and his mother off from that side of the family, but his uncle is willing to buck the pressure and take a chance on William. And William's life changes forever.
But when a mysterious stranger begins to appear in William's life, his luck changes again, and doesn't change until William believes he makes a deal with the man.
William ends up building an empire in the business of death, providing not only funeral services, but also all the trappings for funerals and mourning. This part was particularly interesting to see the details of Victorian funeral conventions.
The rook theme introduced in William's youth also reappears again and again through the novel, perhaps associated with the mysterious stranger. I liked the chapters on rooks, each one giving an interesting term for a group of these birds.
This is a tale of a man's life, triumphs and regrets, happiness and sorrow. And an underlying fear that follows him throughout.

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