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The Bellwether Revivals [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Benjamin Wood , Ralph Lister
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 May 2013
Bright, bookish Oscar Lowe has escaped the urban estate where he was raised and made a new life for himself amid the colleges and spires of Cambridge. He has grown to love the quiet routine of his life as a care assistant at a local nursing home, where he has forged a close friendship with the home's most ill-tempered resident, Dr. Paulsen. But when he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student at King's College, Oscar is drawn into her world of scholarship and privilege, and soon becomes embroiled in the strange machinations of her brilliant but troubled brother, Eden, who believes he can adapt the theories of a forgotten Baroque composer to heal people with music. Eden's self-belief knows no bounds, and as he draws his sister and closed circle of friends into a series of disturbing experiments to prove himself right, Oscar realises the extent of the danger facing them all...
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Brilliance Corporation; Unabridged edition (28 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1469215934
  • ISBN-13: 978-1469215938
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,531,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable hokum, which disappoints in the end 4 Aug 2012
By L. Bretherton VINE VOICE
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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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fabulous Debut 31 Jan 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was drawn to this like a moth to the light - I can't resist novels set in academic environments with quirky, over-privileged characters who I'd be tempted to throttle in real life. It's always a bonus if this elite group assimilates someone from a lower class, hoping to mould him in their own image. Brideshead Revisited and The Secret History rank amongst my all-time favourite reads so The Bellwether Revivals should be a shoo-in....but is it strong enough to forge its own path or is it just a readable homage?

I'm delighted to report that The Bellwether Revivals is a very distinctive, debut novel with its own identity and power. Oscar Lowe, a young Care Assistant, finds himself drawn into another world when he meets and becomes romantically involved with Iris Bellwether, an undergraduate at Cambridge. It is the hypnotic organ playing of Iris's enigmatic brother Eden which draws Oscar into a church and acts as the catalyst for a series of disturbing events.

The characterisation is superb - you feel like you're right beside Oscar, meeting Eden for the first time, being magnetically drawn to this rangy, curly haired, eccentric/mad creature who thinks he can heal via the medium of music. Eden's friends and family feel compelled to protect him but is he merely a tad idiosyncratic or a real danger to himself and others? Iris is torn between loyalty to her brother and her burgeoning romance with Oscar. Mater and Pater live in splendid isolation, with only a vague interest in their children, as long as their grades are good.

From the very first page I was drawn into the compelling and, at times, unnerving world of the Bellwethers. The opening will hook you as we begin with an ending and you really have to find out how we get there. An excellent debut novel which will appeal to fans of Brideshead, The Secret History and The Lessons by Naomi Alderman. I can't wait to see what this talented author comes out with next.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
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.

The plot is rather good, but, the voices of the characters have little real identity - other than a few rather hackneyed devices to indicate who is speaking - for example, the American gay academic, calling all females honey, and the males, kid.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down, but .....
The title is intriguing and witty. ‘Wether’ is a castrated male sheep, and according to Wikepedia: ‘bellwether – originally an experienced wether given a bell to lead a flock; now... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Ann with the Hat
2.0 out of 5 stars Well crafted but dull tribute to influence of Donna Tartt.
Wood's background from an MFA program is evident here in a well crafted and tightly structured narrative. Read more
Published 24 days ago by D. Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars This was read by my book group and we had one of our best discussions...
A truly remarkable first novel. This was read by my book group and we had one of our best discussions so far. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Judith Worham
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but pretentious
An elegantly written page turner, but ultimately a cliched bit of fluff dressed up as literature. Wood plants lots of mines that never explode. Read more
Published 2 months ago by James M. Lancaster
3.0 out of 5 stars Tries to Be Too Clever
The British Campus novel (specifically the Oxbridge one) is getting awfully repetitive: too many are on the theme of 'innocent or naive poor boy/girl gets corrupted or damaged by... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Kate Hopkins
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting idea and a good read despite some flaws
'The Bellwether Revivals' opens with that classic literary set up - three bodies have been found in mysterious circumstances - and then the narrative goes back a year to narrate... Read more
Published 10 months ago by BookWorm
4.0 out of 5 stars What a woeful wail - "I made a mistake"...
`Benjamin Wood was awarded a scholarship to attend the MFA Creative Writing Programme at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mrs. Katharine Kirby
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and powerful story
This was one of my most enjoyable reads of the year. It has a great plot and characters and is written well. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Blogpiper
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear
I don't normally do reviews, but this book infuriated me so much I felt driven to come here and tell the world just how bad it was. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. R. A. W. Tock
4.0 out of 5 stars A really enjoyable read
Picked this up at random. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the book. The characters felt real and the substance of the novel, while being somewhat outlandish, had enough... Read more
Published 13 months ago by P. Cranfield
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