Bellman & Black: A Novel

Bellman and Black - Diane Setterfield (I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

I found this story to be reminiscent of 19th century novels, and in some parts, I think it succeeds in keeping up with that kind of atmosphere. Although we're never told when exactly it is set, hints scattered here and there give enough information to piece a general period together, and even if this sense of being out of time can be annoying to some, to me it was part of what made the novel's charm. Overall, it takes us from a rural approach to commercial ventures, gradually moving into more modern views, until that one universal need everybody goes through in the end.

The main character's family and history were fleshed out enough for me to get attached to them, which in turn made what happened predictable, yet still touching. Maybe I would've liked to see more about the women, though, to really get how important they were to Bellman. The writing also does justice to the theme, and was often enthralling.

A large part of my interest in this story was how Bellman was basically given a second chance (through another character) but sadly never really understood what it was, and led himself astray, all the while thinking he was doing the right thing. This made his character all the more tragic and troubling, because his mistake was at once selfish and a very human one.

However (and even though in the end, it didn't prevent me from enjoying this novel), I think the blurb of B&B is somewhat misleading. For instance, I was expecting the mysterious Black to appear sooner, to be more present, maybe—technically, he is, but I feel that it's not what I was promised, in a way. This could unfortunately detract from other readers' enjoyment. Same with some potential plot points that seemed to start (Lizzie, among others) that felt like they were going to become important... yet they didn't. Those would've been worth more attention.