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The Bellwether Revivals Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857206958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857206954
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 206,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Benjamin Wood was born in 1981 and grew up in the north-west of England. He is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, and the author of the highly acclaimed debut novel The Bellwether Revivals. His second novel is The Ecliptic.

Product Description


'In this multi-themed and far-reaching novel, the dichotomies of reason and superstition, sanity and madness, science and faith, are given close and sustained attention ...This is an accomplished novel, suffused with intelligence and integrity'

`Following a nursing home assistant in Cambridge it is "a powerful read that explores the conflicts that arise between logic, religion and blind faith", according to The Bookseller'
--Independent on Sunday

The Bellwether Revivals is a stunningly good debut novel, a thrilling story of music and its hold on a group of young people's minds and lives. Benjamin Wood writes with vigour, precision and intensity, with a story that will keep readers up all night. --Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo

'The Bellwether Revivals renders the cruelties and frailties of genius with acuity and tenderness, exploring the naive sophistication of bright young minds, the moral immunity granted to coteries of privilege, and the true nature of mastery in art. Seductive, resonant, and disquieting, Benjamin Wood's novel captures strains and cadences, qualities of music that are rarely rendered except in sound. --Eleanor Catton, award-winning author of The Rehearsal

`There's more than a hint of Donna Tartt's The Secret History about this novel, with Cambridge taking the place of Vermont... highly effective' --Daily Mail

`The novel ... has as its lodestone Brideshead Revisited ... a timely examination of the conflict between religion and scepticism, a theme explored with more rigour than in this novel's template. There, we rarely doubt that Waugh is on the side of grace and the supernatural. Donna Tartt's The Secret History is also in the DNA here, and there are echoes of another literary analysis of the unhealthy emotional bond between a brother and sister, L P Hartley's Eustace and Hilda. Does it matter that Wood wears his influences so clearly on his sleeve? Some may find the book reads like a contemporary filigree on its illustrious predecessors, but most readers will find themselves transfixed by this richly drawn cast of characters. The fact that Wood can hold his own in such heavyweight company is a measure of his achievement' --Independent

`An intense, claustrophobic debut in which a troubled Cambridge student believes he has the gift to heal, Benjamin Wood's debut plunges into the heart of privileged Cambridge where musical genius Eden Bellwether is the leader of a coterie of acolytes. Outsider Oscar - bookish and estranged from his working-class family - falls for Eden's sister Iris and becomes involved with Eden's conviction that he can heal the sick with the music of an obscure baroque composer. Things go wrong when Eden tries to `mend' Iris's broken leg, and then attempts to cure an author of terminal brain cancer. As events spiral out of control, the conflicts between madness and reason, religion and blind faith, become dangerously real' --Marie Claire

`Students have been in the headlines ... will it bring the campus novel back into vogue? With not one but two books featuring students out this month, it certainly seems the case. Written by graduates and both featuring Oxbridge graduates... The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood ... boasts a 21st century spin on a genre that once upon a time seemed only to celebrate lofty minded or louche toffs' --Mariella Frostrup - Open Books BBC Radio 4

`Read it. Quite a debut' --Patrick Neate --Lee Randall, The Scotsman

'Oh, how I loved this novel! I was drawn in from the very first sentence and pretty much didn't put it down until I reached the last. This is the kind of story that makes you want to hole up under the covers-with a box of cookies and a mug of tea-and not come out until you've uncovered the mysteries at its heart. And those mysteries that stay with you long after you reluctantly emerge from bed. I find myself constantly thinking of Wood's characters-wonderful, surprising Oscar Lowe and those beautiful, doomed Bellwethers. It reminded me, more than anything, of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, another novel that utterly consumed me, body and soul' Joanna Smith Rakoff, author of the New York Times bestselling A Fortunate Age

'This thrilling campus drama begins with the death of Eden Bellwether, a magnetic music scholar and the leader of a Cambridge University clique of undergraduates. The story unravels backwards as Oscar, a working-call nurse and wide-eyed, Nick Carraway figure, if brought in as the outsider-witness after being befriended by another Bellwether - Eden's sister, Iris, and becoming embroiled in the group's sinister 'experimentations'. A heady, Costa-award shortlisted debut that hypnotises from the very start' --Independent

'An ambitious exploration of doubt, hope and faith' --Lee Randall, The Scotsman

About the Author

Benjamin Wood was born in 1981 and grew up in north-west England. In 2004, he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to attend the MFA Creative Writing Programme at the University of British Columbia, Canada, where he was also fiction editor of the Canadian literary journal PRISM International. Benjamin is now a lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. The Bellwether Revivals is his first novel.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. Bretherton VINE VOICE on 4 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover
At the start of the book you are told what happens at the end. The book, therefore, must explain how events led to that end. This device means that there is a sense of foreboding which pervades the narrative quite effectively. You know something bad's going to happen, let's put it that way!

The character of Oscar is endearingly likeable, his life at The Cedars and his relationship with Iris very sweetly portrayed. However, I am not sure that he would be so happily accepted by the tight clique surrounding the Bellwether siblings. Would they really want to become friends with a lad who worked in a care home, regardless of how much wisteria was hanging off it?

The character of Eden is compelling and terrifying, and I did want to find out how far he would go with his use of hypnotism as medicine. The other minor characters were not so well-defined, and mere background.

I did expect more from the sub-plot of Herbert Crest and Dr. Paulsen. I thought there was going to be some huge mystery revealed in the end, but that turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.

While I enjoyed the delightful setting of Cambridge, I did find a couple of points very irritating, and I am surprised that Mr Wood's editor (or his mother) did not spot them. In one chapter the young lovelies decide to go to St. John's May Ball, making this decision a couple of weeks before the event. Tickets for the top balls are always sold out months in advance, there is no way they could all have got tickets at that point in the year. Also, there is a reference to Herbert Crest having been sentenced to 'community service' in the 1960s!! You were sent to JAIL, than, full stop. (You could still be hanged!)

Overall, though, this is a good read, with some beautifully observed moments. I would definitely read his next book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Bellwether Revivals is one of a slew of others, set around the hallowed halls of elite learning - whether Oxbridge, or the States. I suppose Donna Tartt's The Secret History is the one which started the popularity of the genre off, and the one they are all hoping to emulate.

Here we have the same sort of scenario - a privileged set, and a lowly outsider, this time, not a student from humbler background, but a care assistant (not even a qualified nurse) working in an nursing home, effectively wiping bottoms.

And lured by the inexplicable power of music, our hero, Oscar, who is fact is something of an auto-didact, eagerly devouring the books lent to him by a dying resident, previously a college professor, infiltrates our charmed set of glittering undergraduates. More, he falls in love with, and is fallen in love with, in turn, by the medical student sister of the other central character, the dark star, to Oscar's good and kindly light, Eden Bellwether, musician, composer, thaumaturge and possible sufferer of a personality disorder.

The book starts with death - possibly 2, possibly 3 - all this is evident from the very first page, so not a spoiler, and the journey of the book is to get to that place, and beyond it, forward.

There is much which is interesting around the dialogues between two elderly pedagogues, in their fields, that serves as counterpoint to the unravelling of the mystery that is Eden Bellwether.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Secret Spi on 31 Mar. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
'The Bellwether Revivials' is the story set in Cambridge in 2003, which has some similarities with Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' as well as some of the Barbara Vine stories of psychologically disturbed people. It's about a young man from an ordinary working-class background who gets swept up into a close 'flock' of students centering around the disturbed genius and musician, Eden Bellwether.

The themes tackled in this story are fascinating - the relationship between genius and insanity, between faith/hope and scientific reason as well as sibling and parent/child relationships. These topics are woven well into a story with a well-constructed plot. Although there are bodies on the first page (or pages), whose they are and how they came to be there remain a mystery until the closing pages. I particularly enjoyed the author's descriptions of music in the story - it takes a special skill and talent to make music come alive through words.

But I did feel - and this is just a personal view - that I couldn't take the leap of faith (while we are on that subject) to believe wholeheartedly in these characters and their situation. The little factual slip-ups are irritating to someone who knows Cambridge well and I would have noticed these less had other aspects of the characters been more convincing. It's a small point, but I found it most unlikely that working-class parents would name a son born in the early 80s Oscar!

However, these points aside, the novel did have me gripped and the author manages to convey an sense of impending catastrophe while also making the reader think about the nature of hope and faith.
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