Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fiction: The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

It’s impossible not to think of Donna Tartt when you read Benjamin Wood’s debut novel. The Bellwether Revivals (M&S, S&S, Viking) introduces us to 20-year-old Oscar Lowe, a nursing home assistant at Cambridge, where he meets brother and sister Eden and Iris Bellwether. Oscar falls quickly for Iris, a medical student, then joins her in her worry about her brother, Eden, who believes he can use his music to heal.

Though we are guided through the novel by Oscar, it is Eden who most captures are attention and imagination. He is charismatic, certainly. But is he also a genius, or mad… or both? And if this is so, how about others in the history of music and of healing?

The Bellwether Revivals is a very good first novel, but it’s not the book that it might have been. That resemblance to Tartt’s The Secret History is, unfortunately, fleeting. One gets the impression of influence rather than inspiration. (Though that’s not always a bad thing.)

It’s easy, sometimes, to get lulled by the rhythms of Wood’s easy prose. He hasn’t taken any risks here, but that, too, is all right. It’s a straightforward enough story, classically told.

The Bellwether Revivals is available now in Canada and the U.K. In the US, look for from Viking is June. It’s a worthwhile novel, but it won’t stop your heart. Too bad, really because -- for a moment? -- I wanted it to be stopped. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.



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