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The Bellwether Revivals Paperback – 20 Dec 2012
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'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, author of The Luminaries, winner of the Man Booker Prize
'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
'Read it. Quite a debut' Patrick Neate
'There's more than a hint of Donna Tartt's The Secret History about this novel... highly effective' Daily Mail
'Readers will find themselves transfixed' Independent
'Wood's confident, sometimes creepy novel draws you in... and then, once you're inside, holds on, ever tightening the grip' Independent on Sunday
Suffused with intelligence and integrity' --Guardian
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.
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Top customer reviews
But while the book kept me gripped, something just didn't quite ring true for me. It felt like a narrative caged in by the psychological concept that Wood wanted to explore, and so became increasingly unreal. Hence only 3*, because it always felt almost great.
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If you get past your (natural) early loathing for the prime Bellwether character, this is really worth sticking with!Published 22 months ago by Little H
Enjoyed it though it reminded me of 'secret history' by Donna Tartt a little too much.....sorry prefered Donna !Published 23 months ago by joo
The Bellwether Revivals is a gripping psychological story which kept my attention to the very end.
I can't wait for Ben Wood's next novel.
THIS WAS A GIFT TO A FRIEND AND SHE HAS TOLD ME IT WAS WONDERFUL VERY MOVING AND COMPELLING WERE HER WORDS ABOUT THIS BOOK. Read morePublished on 22 Feb. 2015 by eileen. Lincs
A gripping novel. Highly recommended. A great read.
Thank you Ben.
This is a strange book. You start out thinking it's one thing and then it turns into somethig completely other. It is easy to read, gripping in fact, and yet quite haunting. Read morePublished on 23 Nov. 2014 by Christine