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Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Bellwether Revivals Benjamin Wood

The Bellwether Revivals   begins at the end.  I'm not particularly fond of this method, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  In this case, I think it slowed down my interest in the book for a while; I prefer wondering about what is going to happen and making silent predictions.  After reading a couple of chapters, I put it down, read one or two other books, and then returned to it.  I'm glad I did.

Oscar Lowe is from a working class background, he didn't finish school, and he works as a caregiver in a nursing home, but Oscar is intelligent and has a sort of autodidact education in progress.  Iris, Eden, and their friends are a close-knit group who attended the same boarding school:  wealthy, intelligent, and privileged Cambridge students.

Well-written with flowing prose, Wood manages to build tension from the very beginning.  Even if he had not already given away the ending in the Prelude (appropriately named as so much of the novel focuses on music), the tension and foreboding are felt from Oscar's first meeting with Iris and her brother Eden.

The comparison to The Secret History is justified, but instead of feeling antipathy for all of the characters (I didn't like anyone in TSH),  I did like most of the characters in Wood's novel--to varying degrees.  None of the characters are without human failings, but that is true to life.  Some of the secondary characters are not developed, they are there to help round out the group of friends, but don't have real depth.  

The two secondary characters I found most interesting are Dr. Paulsen (a former Cambridge don, now in a nursing home)  and Dr. Crest (a psychologist with a stage 4 brain tumor).   Though very different in temperament, both have an important influence on Oscar and on the plot

Eden, the star in the firmament of his friends and family, also has a lack of development, but the reason for that is clear.  We have to wonder what is really going on with Eden; he is something of an enigma even to his own family.   Charismatic, egotistical, condescending, but compelling, Eden stands at a remove even from everyone.  Although Oscar finds him a little threatening and unnerving, he is also drawn in by Eden.  When Eden is not around, Oscar appreciates his absence, but also feels the loss of something intangible.

Benjamin Wood has written a remarkable debut novel.  Not one that is completely "likable," but one that is intriguing and that refuses to let you off the hook.

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Fiction.  Originally publ. in 2012; reprint May 2013.  Print version 428 pages.

1 comment:

  1. I wished I didn't have the comparisons to The Secret History when I was reading this. The Secret History is one of my favorite books of all time, and this book suffered by the comparison for me.