What if the effects of one small boyhood act waited decades to come back to haunt you? William Bellman's devotion to hard work seems to have paid off: He has a beautiful wife, healthy children, and a successful business. Then one day, bit by bit, his world begins to crumble beneath his feet. What does his past have to do with his current misfortune?
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. If that were so, a cynic might assume William Bellman's last moments to have been spent contemplating anew the lengthy series of calculations, contracts, and business deals that made up his existence. In fact, as he approached the border with that other place—border toward which we will all find our path turning sooner or later—his thoughts were drawn to those who had already crossed into that unknown territory: his wife, three of his children, his uncle, cousin, and some childhood friends. Having remembered these lost, dear ones and being still some moments from death, there was time for one last act of remembrance. What he unearthed, after it had lain buried some forty years in the archaeology of his mind, was a rook.—Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield (Atria / Emily Bestler Books, 2013, p. 3)
Let me explain:
- Setting: Victorian England
- Circumstances: one boyhood act (the killing of a bird) sets in motion the ultimate fate of Bellman and his relationship with the mysterious Mr. Black
- Characters: William Bellman, his wife, and children; other extended family members; employees and neighbors; Black
- Genre: Gothic, mystery
- Themes & plot: every act has a price; there is no escaping your fate; narrative extras: information about rooks, the Industrial Revolution, Victorian mourning customs and fashion
- Miscellaneous: I loved the author's first book, The Thirteenth Tale, which was one of my top reads the year it came out; I have high expectations for this
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