One Moment in Time Can Haunt You Forever…

…and that isn’t a bad thing; not if we’re the ones to craft the “moment” in question.

I rarely add the complete blurbs of the books I share with you, but Diane Satterfield’s Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story is so memorable that I wanted to have it here:

Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget . . .

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.

I was beyond surprised when I read some of the reviews for this novel. Some people call it “super boring.” Others shake their fists in the air, yelling that Setterfield “lost her touch.” The most surprising review came from a person who only read half the book. This individual insults the author, then says that the book is worthless and made her sad because “everybody dies,” and there is no way that a “healthy person can care about any of the characters.”

My first thought was, Some of these readers might have missed the entire point of The Thirteenth Tale (many said that Bellman & Black was nothing like TTT). Then I thought, No, that’s not it. It might be that they have never lost someone really close to them. Lucky.

Bellman & Black is far from boring, my Wicked Luvs. In fact, when it comes to style (and to the emotions it evokes), it reminds me of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. The story is full of a kind of reality that is difficult to accept. It starts with realistic characters, with personalities and wants so similar to people we know—perhaps, even us—that when their world falls apart, we might feel the urge to run. Fast. And to kick any character who might seem not to be suffering as much as we are.

This is not an easy novel to read. The action won’t keep the reader turning page after page. But I’m willing to bet that the motifs and the way they are portrayed would keep most people, who have lived a little, nodding as the story develops. In the end, those people will find a different kind of hope. Or maybe, it’s just me.  

Here are my favorite quotes from 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.”

“Rooks are made of thought and memory. They know everything and they do not forget.”

 “Since we are on the topic of ravens, a collective noun for ravens is an unkindness. This is somewhat puzzling to Thought and Memory.”

Below is what I made for my Artful Readers Club February entry (I’m a few days early). I don’t want to tell you all the reasons why I chose to make a party dress and some hair extensions. Doing so might spoil the book for anyone who is yet to read it. But I can say that the color red holds a very important role in the story. And yes, there is a girl… there is always a girl…
Part of this month’s challenge was to reread a book we’ve loved for a long time. I had already chosen to read Bellman & Black for February, but I would have never missed an opportunity to reread its brother by the same mother: The Thirteenth Tale. I think the former can be described in a few words: they are “tales of change and desperation.” And every one of them stays with the reader, evolving with every reread. Here are my favorite quotes:

“She was a do-gooder, which means that all the ill she did, she did without realizing it.”

“All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.”

“Silence is not a natural environment for stories. They need words. Without them they grow pale, sicken and die. And then they haunt you.”
When a story haunts me, I write it. If you read it—and perhaps enjoy it—then the haunting isn’t a bad thing. Read on, my Wicked Luvs. I’ll live, and write. Always…

33 comments:

  1. I know it has nothing to do with the story but I can't help but remember that horrible day the Blue Jay outfielder threw his baseball at a bird and killed the poor thing. Just done in an idle moment, not expecting the bird to still be there when the ball hit. devastating. Really enjoyed your February entry in the Artful reader's club! Especially the hair extensions!! :)

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    1. I didn't know about the incident and the ball player. How terrible. The same kind of happened to the main character in the story. He was expecting the rook to move, but it didn't. Poor thing.

      Glad you liked the extensions. Even if they kind of ended up looking like a boom, lol!

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  2. Ooh these sound right up my street.

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  3. I read the Thirteenth Tale years ago... Your post made me bring it out again... I enjoyed it.. I find it surprising that someone could make such a judgment call ... Why couldn't that reader not put fault in the book and just realize it wasn't the writing... that maybe the book wasn't his 'cup of tea'?

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    1. I don't get people either when it comes to this kind of stuff. What happened to objectivity? Just because a story is painful, it doesn't mean that the tale is bad. But what can we do...

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  4. I'm putting both these books on my "to read" list. They sound like my kind of books.

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    1. Hooray! Let me know how you like them. I think you'll enjoy them a whole lot!

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  5. Oh push posh! Critics...if they hate something then it must be GREat! As always your endless book suggestions go on my MUST read List....yep! Dianne is on there!
    Now your a fashion designer! Well I can't keep up !! Love your insight ...always! thank you! xoDebi

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    1. "fashion designer"? LOL

      You know, after you said something about designing, I remember that I failed to mention that the dress and the "hair extensions" are made of repurposed coffee filters. *sigh* I got lost in the stories...

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  6. I really need to read this book and TTT (not 'The Two Towers', this time). Oh, and I have a weakness for red circles in black rings, so I love your journal entry. On the subject of corvine books people condemn as boring, have you read 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell'? I loved it, and loved the pastiche Victorian feel.

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    1. You can always reread The Two Towers, too! I'm doing it this year. Oh, and I've devoured all 800 pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr Nerrell. In fact, I love the story so much that it is in my list for this year's rereading.

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    2. Yay for re-reading! It's like going back to a place we love, and finding it welcoming as ever.

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  7. Going on my "must read" list too!

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    1. I think you'll love The Thirteenth Tale. We know you are intrigued by one special family. This family is special in a whole new way.

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  8. Bellman & Black is on my wish list.

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    1. I'm curious to read your review, if you write one...

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  9. You know it is funny that I should read this when I literally just read this....

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lynn-shepherd/jk-rowling-should-stop-writing_b_4829648.html

    BE WARNED the site is really annoying and laggish. I think its because its trying to make pop-ups and my computer isn't allowing it.

    Some of the remarks some people make about books always surprises me. What Shepherd said in her articular though I thought was completely ridiculous and made very little sense. This coming from a writer was all the more surprising.

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    1. That lady has some serious issues. First of all, I can't believe she is passing judgement on books she hasn't even read. Only a person incapable of critical thought (or one who hasn't read the stories) can't find a least a reason why adults might be reading the Harry Potter books. And I won't even say anything about her comments on the the other, two. You said it best, the views are "completely ridiculous and made very little sense."

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  10. I haven't read Bellman & Black but I think I will look into it now. Also I love you art project.

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    1. If you read it, let me know what you think. And thank you for the words!

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  11. I could have sworn I commented here. *puzzled* Anyway....I haven't read anything by this author but the covers look luscious!

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    1. I've done the "post and where's my comment" bit a couple of times this week. Maybe it's contagious. ;-D

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  12. My two favourite books.
    You're making me want to read them both again....but it's too soon :)

    Your little project looks gorgeous by the way :)

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    1. I know what you mean about wanting to reread something, but being too soon for it. For books like One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Thirteenth Tale I always have to tell myself,
      "Not yet, wait another month~!"

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  13. Magaly, you are a creative, artistic sole in every way! I love what you created! The book sounds very interesting! Big Hugs ;o)

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    1. You are too awesome, Stacy! I do like the little dress. Who would think that coffee filters could be useful and useful again. ;-)

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  14. Love it! It fascinates me too, when I read the reviews for a book and you find out how some things one finds amazing another finds boring or awful. It also depends on the mood of the reader. I've stopped reading a book a few pages in because it didn't hold my interest but then I came back to it and devour it in one sitting. :) The problem I find is because I read a lot I find a lot of books that have a similar story. The story might have been great in the first book I read or even the third but more then that it looses it's magic and originality.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean when it comes to reading a book and then another in the genre and feeling like it's the same tale with different names in it. I have to push myself to finish those books..

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  15. Silence is not a natural environment for stories. What an appropriate quote for a book club. I enjoyed your double review of a pair of books I have not read yet.

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    1. I think so, too. It is my favorite quote in any book. There is something so organic and dreamy about it...

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  16. This is a new author for me, Megaly. You've made me sit up and take notice. She's now on my list of authors to be read!! Your review is honest and mysterious!! I like that! Your art is unique...it makes me even more curious about the books! Thanks for sharing.
    See you next month... I didn't realize that this month was supposed to be a reread of a previous book. I totally missed that suggestion! :(

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    1. So sorry you missed it. Maybe you can do it for the next book or the one after that?

      The Thirteenth Tale is mysterious and then some. Bellman & Black is different... and real in a way that catches the reader by surprise, but very slowly... The are both wonderful reads.

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