Review: The Bellwether Revivals

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Bellwether RevivalsThe Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
Published by Viking Adult on June 28, 2012
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

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.

First Sentence: “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.”

The Bellwether Revivals begins with one heck of a hook. While most of the chapters are lengthy, it opens with one of two short pages. These pack quite a wallop, though. The reader learns that there are two dead bodies and one nigh dead being carted off by the paramedics. At this point, the readers has no idea what happened, but most definitely wants to know. This technique of a small climactic scene from the end of the book being placed at the opening to create a mystery and tension to push through the novel is certainly popular, but Wood has used it effectively.

My curiosity from those two pages is what propelled me through The Bellwether Revivals. The novel, as a whole, just did not call to me. While it is masterfully written, and will no doubt acquire much critical acclaim, the novel did not speak to me on a personal level. I was bored through most of it, a feeling aided by the incredibly long chapters.

Though I haven’t actually read Brideshead Revisited, from what I know of it (having seen two film adaptations), the comparison is apt. On a basic level, The Bellwether Revivals is one of those stories about a poor boy becoming caught up with a fantastically intelligent, beautiful, wealthy family (particularly Iris and Eden Bellwether), and seeing that things aren’t necessarily so shiny in their world. This plot line has never really been my favorite, but I think the book will definitely appeal to fans of The Great Gatsby, Brideshead Revisited, and Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

The psychological aspects of the story, more than the wtf happened of the opening, was the most intriguing part of the book to me. I can’t talk about it too much without giving anything away, but there are is a lot of psychoanalysis. Additionally, there are some very interesting discussions of faith and its healing powers. On an intellectual, this held much appeal for me.

My difficulty with the story was definitely in the characters. I feel like I complain about this a lot, but, when I read, I read primarily for character. I lose myself in a story through the characters. Although I did sympathize with Oscar’s plight somewhat, I couldn’t empathize at all, and, in his shoes, I would definitely have run for the hills from this crazy ass family.

The Bellwethers themselves may be charismatic and wealthy, but I just didn’t see the attraction they held for him. Well, that’s not true. They represented a life he could have been living but wasn’t: that of academia. Still, their individual personalities were not at all likeable; they were all very bipolar, very changeable from one moment to the next. The whole friend group was so insular and self-flattering, not to mention pandering endlessly to Eden Bellwether. I was not invested in any of them, which is why finding out which of them did not survive was seriously anticlimactic.

As I said, though, I know others have loved and will love this novel. I would recommend not judging solely off of my opinion. The novel is very well written, but simply not my cup of cocoa. As such, I am offering up my copy to one of my readers. Since I’m shipping it, the giveaway is US only. Sorry! I always have at least one international giveaway a month, though, so do check back, non-US folks.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I’ve been writing a lot about hope. My theory is that hope is a form of madness. A benevolent one, sure, but madness all the same. Like an irrational superstition—broken mirrors and so forth—hope’s not based on any kindd of logic, it’s just unfettered optimism, grounded in nothing but faith in things beyond our control.’”

9 responses to “Review: The Bellwether Revivals”

  1. Ashley says:

    Your review has me torn. On the one hand I really love books like The Great Gatsby. On the other, I also need to be drawn in by the characters. Maybe it will be a library read for me.

    • Christina says:

      You should definitely check it out if you like those other books. I didn’t especially love the characters in Gatsby, so you may just have different tastes! 🙂

  2. FABR Steph says:

    What a shame that this ended up a bit of a disappointment. I had high hopes for this one. I may still check it out, but will probably not purchase it. Thank you for your detailed review.

    • Christina says:

      The writing was really good, but this just isn’t really my type of story it turns out. The whole spoiled rich kid plot line tends to leave me cold. I just sit there going ‘CRY MOAR ANON!’

      It may appeal more to you. I don’t think it was a bad book, just not for me.

  3. Anita Yancey says:

    Sounds like a great book, and I love that it has a mystery to it. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  4. Diane52 says:

    Can’t wait to start reading this book

  5. Sarah Bauman says:

    Can’t wait to read the book. It sounds great.

  6. I’m intrigued. Sounds like there’s some good stuff in there, and it’s just a question of the reader’s preferences. I’m curious if I’ll agree.

    • Christina says:

      I definitely think this one will be completely amazing with the right reader! That wasn’t me, sadly, but I’m passing the book on suspecting that the next owner will probably love it!

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