Review: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield


4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

It is rather difficult to write a review for this book for some reason, because not much really happened.

That is not to say that it was a dull book, but the story progresses very slowly. The book begins with a young William Bellman, and slowly takes the reader through his life: from the start of the story where he kills a rook, through his advancement at the mill, through all the deaths and hardships of his life and on to the opening of his mourning emporium, Bellman & Black. And throughout his life, a mysterious figure, dressed all in black.

Although the book is snail-paced, it works very well for showing William’s character and nature: inquisitive and curious, hard-working and dedicated. The reader also gets a feel for how William’s life feels, with the people he loves dying all around him, whilst he still fights on. What’s most interesting is that, despite the book feeling this way, it skips over big chunks of time – one minute William is just a young boy, the next he is nearly twenty years old, then suddenly in his thirties.

The chapters are interspersed with facts about rooks, occasionally hinting at how rooks never forget, creating an eerie tone that looms over William throughout the course of the book. However, this is pretty much as eerie as it gets. There are no big shocks, no horrific moments, even the mysterious Mr. Black isn’t that creepy. For something labelled as a ghost story, it sure doesn’t feel like one.

I wasn’t very satisfied by the ending. I was expecting some sort of big surprise or revelation, some explanation for the previous events: but nothing. However, despite the slow pace of the book, and not much happening, it is when Bellman finally opens his ‘mourning emporium’ that things get much more interesting. I loved the description of the building and all the items within – who knew there could be so many shades of black?!

I also spent the majority of the book working out where it was supposed to be set. It kept mentioning Stroud in the chapters about the wool mill, which is the town where I went to school and used to play a big part in the wool industry, so I assume it is based in Gloucestershire. It also mentions Bristol and Oxford, which widens the area but I’ve just come to the conclusion that it’s set in the south-west of England somewhere!

Overall, definitely an interesting story and concept, although with some rather dull moments – however these aren’t too common – though I would have liked more of a resolution.

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #29


My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

I’m back from York! I had a great time staying with my friend, and I didn’t buy any books! I almost bought a book on Roman Britain in the Yorkshire Museum, but I kind of have enough of those already so managed to stop myself…


  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson – I won Anya’s Brandon Sanderson giveaway, and chose Elantris as my prize as I felt like a standalone rather than a series – I have too many series to catch up with at the moment. Thank you Anya!
  • Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield – this is the first First Reads book that I’ve won in a year, so thank you Goodreads for this one.

And just a couple of things I bought in York…

Delicious strawberry and lychee tea from the Hebden Tea Company.

A York Lucky Glass Cat! They have different colours depending on your birth month. From York Glass.

And I got super excited to find this in the museum – there used to be a temple to Serapis in York, and Serapis is the god that I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on.

‘To the holy god Serapis, Claudius Hieronymanius, legate of the Sixth Legion Victorious, built this temple from the ground’