Title: The Bellwether Revivals
Author: Benjamin Wood
Release Date: June 14, 2012
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Oscar Lowe is a smart young man who lives in Cambridge, though he does not attend the university. He makes a living as a care assistant at a nursing home, which was his ticket out of a lower class life. He’s content with his lot until a chance encounter leads him to Iris Bellwether, a gorgeous and intriguing Cambridge student. Oscar is drawn into her wealthy circle of friends, and by extension, Iris’ brother Eden, who believes he can cure people through music.
The Bellwether Revivals is an intense character study of three very different personalities. There’s Oscar, a bright young man who takes pleasure and pride in what he does. He’s a great, level-headed main character who provides some sanity as the other characters veer off the beaten path. Then there’s Eden, the incredibly narcissistic music student who is enamored of himself. His delusions of grandeur are at once amusing and frightening, especially when he cons others into believing in him. And finally, there’s Iris in the middle, who believes in Oscar’s rationality, but also is drawn in by her brother’s charisma. Each of these characters has an important role to play in this novel.
It’s also fascinating to see the group dynamics in The Bellwether Revivals. Oscar doesn’t fit in with this larger group of rich college students, yet he tries for Iris’ sake. And though he does manage to ingratiate himself into this group, Oscar isn’t changed by them. He stays true to himself and his ideals. No, it’s this group of people that Oscar affects. They are both intrigued by him and more than a little jealous of his security and self-reliance.
This novel also has a psychological component, which is really the driving force of The Bellwether Revivals. The book moves at its own pace, and it’s not the fastest read. Wood takes his time to develop his characters and provide vivid descriptions; it’s wonderfully done, but can feel slow at times. But it’s the psychological thriller underpinnings of the novel that really move it forward. Eden’s narcissistic tendencies can be downright creepy at times, and it’s interesting to see how his delusions increase as the novel progresses.
It’s a novel that takes some effort, but in the end, The Bellwether Revivals is a book worth reading. Readers will enjoy getting to know Oscar and will be simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by Eden. Readers will also enjoy the doubt that creeps into their minds as the novel progresses and the questions that arise about Eden’s practices. It’s a well-told story that will linger long after the final pages are turned.