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The Bellwether Revivals: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Benjamin Wood

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2452246,947 (3.57)27
Member:SharonGoforth
Title:The Bellwether Revivals: A Novel
Authors:Benjamin Wood
Info:Viking Adult (2012), Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:fiction, 21st century, novel, benjamin wood

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The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

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English (17)  French (3)  Italian (1)  All (21)
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The Bellwether Revivals by debut novelist, Benjamin Wood, is in a few words, an embodiment of its own subject matter: genius and enthralling madness—and the fine line it trespasses between the two.

The narrative begins distantly, an omnipotent, observant tone that lays the foundation of its parts for the reader: the characters in Eden, the high-minded musical genius absorbed by his unconventional theories of the power of sound; Iris, his intelligent and musically talented sister who intuitively plays the cello; Oscar, the protagonist of the story, who, as the socially underprivileged and academic outsider in comparison to his new Bellwether friends, helps bring logic and compassion to this highly tense novel.

It is a book that is equally rich in its development of characters as it is in its progressive and climatic plot, which is a feat in itself considering a book usually weighs more in one spectrum than the other.

It’s a story of Eden Bellwether and his exploration of musical theory and music itself, as a force, if rightly composed and attributed, holds physically healing and redemptive powers. His musical genius and inherent self-importance, which perhaps derived from the latent seed of mental disorder was only further perpetuated by a self-indulgent and wealthy upbringing by a family who continually encouraged his prodigious talent and fearfully succumbed to his every wish. The danger of this kind of environment coupled with the mania and complexity of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, only solidified the severity of Eden’s deteriorating psychosis.

He’s a brilliant scholar and gifted musician, but the price of his superior intellect is a costly social incompetence that keeps him from being able to empathize and connect humanely, if not intimately with others. The egocentric nature of his character cannot help itself into amassing into a condescending, cocky, dominant, and controlling individual.

And those that suffer most from his presence and his ever-growing mania, are those who are closest to him, both in relation, in reverent awe, and intellectual worship—and even palpable fear.

From his debutante and complacent mother (Ruth), his confident and overly ambitious father (Theo), his suffering and compliant sister (Iris), to his specifically chosen friends (Marcus, Yin, and Jane) for their tolerance and adoration of Eden himself, as much as for their individual and necessary musical deftness.

Oscar, on the other hand, is resilient to Eden’s charms and holds a sobering view of the man whose mysterious genius is both exemplary and disconcerting. He is the grounding force for all those involved and the one with the most honest compassion as shown in his love and care for Dr. Paulsen, a resident of the nursing home, Cedarbrook, in which he works, and his willingness to involve himself in the matters of Eden’s “mental illness” on behalf of his growing relationship with Eden’s sister, Iris.


This is a powerfully unsettling read that will intrigue even the most logical personality and metaphysical, occult skeptic. It moves from delusions of grandeur to frightening crescendos of absurdity and madness that begs the question of how close and intermingled genius is with giftedness and mental illness.

Filled with the idyllic sanctuary of a wealthy environment found in the Bellwethers’ lifestyle and estate, the genuine intimacy between a couple in love, and the subordinate compliance of friends who love, revere, and almost fear their friend—it’s a gorgeous book and a “hypnotic” read. It’s a subtly frightening, psychological analysis of love, friendship, and sibling rivalry that spirals into a coarse doom of the horrors, dangers, and possibilities of a brilliant mind.
( )
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
This was just my kind of book! Reminiscent of 'Brideshead Revisited' with a dash of 'Phantom of the Opera' thrown in to spice it up, this tale kept me turning the pages from start to finish. Our working class narrator Owen drags us along with him as he becomes entangled with a slightly off-balanced group from the world of academia.
As Owen's relationship with Iris Bellwether and her brother Eden slowly deepens, the story mounts with tension bringing us to our edge of our seats as we read towards it's conclusion. ( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
It isn't nearly as good as The Secret History. That is a great book, this one was barely ok. ( )
  ChrisWay | Jul 5, 2016 |
I picked this book up because of a blurb on the back cover that mentions the power of music. I read and scanned my way thru it but was disappointed in the analytics and the prose. Only the story line kept me going - some nice tie-ins, a few surprises.

( )
  Jeannine504 | Jan 23, 2016 |
Six-word review: Youth exerts strange power over friends.

Extended review:

From the beginning, The Bellwether Revivals has a creepy Tana French feel. In fact, the story of an outsider who joins a group of five friends with a pronounced strangeness about them, friends who share some mystic bond and engage in unusual ritual practices, is more than a little reminiscent of The Likeness.

The story takes off in an altogether different direction, however; the similarity is more one of atmosphere than of plot and character, although in both there is a dominant figure whose exceptional qualities rule the group. In the present case, an almost unearthly charisma gives rise to a collective delusion, with traumatic results.

Even though I'd place this one several notches below The Likeness on the scale for style, execution, characterization, and polish, I think it's likely to appeal to very similar readerly tastes. The dynamic among strikingly different personalities and the way they complement one another, and the effects that occur as a newcomer attempts to fit in, drive the plot to an unexpected outcome with an otherworldly feel.

The main character, Oscar, does not make much of an impression; he is more like the host of the drama, the pretext that brings the reader in, than a central figure. As such, he is not especially memorable. I liked the treatment of several secondary characters and an odd subplot, which, however, never really answers all my questions.

In sum, I liked it well enough, and it held my attention through 405 pages despite a number of copyediting lapses, which of course I marked; but I don't consider it a standout.

And I'm always going to hold something back from an author who writes "Woah." ( )
2 vote Meredy | Apr 26, 2015 |
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Epigraph
If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.  --Sir Francis Bacon
Dedication
For my mother
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They heard the caterwaul of sirens, and saw the dust rising underneath the ambulance wheels at the far end of the driveway, and soon the darkening garden was a wash of flashing blue lights.
Oscar Lowe would later tell police that he couldn't remember the exact date he first laid eyes on the Bellwethers, though he knew for sure it had been a Wednesday.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670023590, Hardcover)

A sophisticated debut novel about the hypnotic influence of love, the beguiling allure of money and the haunting power of music

Bright, bookish Oscar Lowe has escaped the squalid urban neighborhood 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 its most ill-tempered resident, Dr. Paulsen.

All that changes one fateful day when Oscar, while wandering the bucolic grounds of Cambridge, is lured into the chapel at Kings College by the otherworldly sound of an organ. It is here that he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student. Drawn into the world of scholarship and privilege, Oscar soon becomes embroiled in the strange machinations of Iris’s older brother, Eden.

A charismatic but troubled musical prodigy, Eden convinces his sister and their close-knit circle of friends to participate in a series of disturbing experiments. Eden believe that music—with his expert genius to guide it—can cure people. As the line between genius and madness begins to blur, however, Oscar fears that it is danger and not healing that awaits them all—but it might be too late. . . .

A masterful work of psychological suspense and emotional resonance from a brilliant young talent, The Bellwether Revivals will hold readers spellbound until its breathtaking conclusion.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:14 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Nursing home assistant Oscar Lowe is drawn into the opulent world of the charismatic Bellwether siblings and falls in love with medical student Iris before realizing the dangers posed by troubled Eden Bellwether, who believes he can heal people with his music.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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