2014: 71. Bellman & Black

"I have heard it said, by those that cannot possibly know, that in the final moments of a man's existence he sees his whole life pass before his eyes."  

Bellman & Black, Diane Setterfield

So, I bought this book because, when I was copying over old archives from my blog, I was reminded how much I had enjoyed Setterfield's previous book, The Thirteenth Tale.  Unfortunately, this one was just not up to snuff.  It had the same gothicy feel, but none of the twists, so, while it was a fine way to fill a couple of hours, it left me with a "is this all there is?" feeling when I was done.

The book, set in the Victorian era, is about Will Bellman.  When he is a young man he kills a rook out of a tree with an amazing catapult shot.  Possibly he is then cursed by the rooks - there is lots in the book about rooks, but the ending doesn't really tie a bow on the rook thing, so maybe not.  He is the son of a second son who disappointed his mill owner father, then split town.  Will is thus sort of an outcast, compared to his wealthy cousin.  But his uncle takes him on at the mill (over the objections of the disapproving grandfather), and he makes quite a success of himself - except people keep dying…

Look, I guess we were supposed to think that he was cursed by the rook and that's why he had so much tragedy in his life.  BUT (and you know, spoilers aho, fun ahoy), when the mysterious man he keeps seeing at the funerals finally reveals himself - he is death, not a rook.  And lord, we all die anyway.  Which is the point of the whole second half, when Bellman raised a mourning accessories empire.  And then there is the whole thing about him wasting his life as an Ebenezer Scrooge-y workaholic, and I don't know - there are lots of ideas here, but in the end, I just didn't think there was much point to the whole thing.  Was is supernatural? About work life balance? The inevitability of death? Just bad luck (i.e. killing the rook as an innocent ten year old and paying the price thereafter)?  I referred to her first book as a "ripping yarn" but I found this one to be a mishmash.


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017