The Bellwether Revivals
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Bellwether Revivals

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,234 ratings  ·  283 reviews
Part Secret History, part Brideshead Revisited for the 21st century, The Bellwether Revivals is a page-turning, romantic, eerie tale of genius and, possibly, madness; a stunning debut for fans of Sarah Waters, Donna Tartt, and Lauren Goff.

The Bellwether Revivals opens and closes with bodies. The story of whose bodies and how they come to be spread about an elegant house on...more
Hardcover, 428 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by McClelland & Stewart (first published February 1st 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Bellwether Revivals, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Bellwether Revivals

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. StedmanBring Up the Bodies by Hilary MantelThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceThe Chemistry of Tears by Peter CareyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2012
19th out of 152 books — 258 voters
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane SetterfieldThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónRebecca by Daphne du MaurierThe Forgotten Garden by Kate MortonThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Modern Gothic
100th out of 271 books — 740 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
how to make your own secret history playset.

you will need

one big house where a gaggle of college-aged and -attending young adults can gather unsupervised to drink and discuss Big Ideas and show off their highly specific knowledge in relatively obscure intellectual subjects

at least five of these should be very wealthy, having been protected by their wealth and their intellects their whole lives, giving them a false sense of immortality and infallibility; a confidence beyond their years that makes...more
I was drawn to this like a moth to the light – I can’t resist novels set in academic environments with quirky, over-privileged characters who I’d be tempted to throttle in real life. It’s always a bonus if this elite group assimilates someone from a lower class, hoping to mould him in their own image. Brideshead Revisited and The Secret History rank amongst my all-time favourite reads so The Bellwether Revivals should be a shoo-in….but is it strong enough to forge its own path or is it just a re...more
How to make me really, really want to read a book: describe it, as the blurb for The Bellwether Revivals does, as 'part The Secret History, part Brideshead Revisited for the 21st century... a page-turning, romantic, eerie tale of genius and, possibly, madness'. Of course, I wanted to get my hands on this straight away and saw it as a natural addition to my famous (ahem...) Secret-History-esque shelf.

First things first: let's do the checklist. Elite, academic setting? Yes - Cambridge University a...more
The premise of this story is very interesting and this could have been a really engaging novel, however there is a glaring lack of consistency, an overall unevenness to the quality of the story, as well as the writing. The whole story has a very forced feeling, the progression of relationships, the way the characters related to one another, the dialogue, the timing of events, it all felt very contrived.

The pacing is uneven and the character development is out of order, passages offering insight...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca Foster
Oscar Lowe is an odd man out at Cambridge. Though he reads widely in literature and philosophy, he grew up working class on a housing estate, didn’t go to university, and now works at Cedarwood nursing home. One day, taking a shortcut to work through the campus, he is drawn by the organ music emanating from the King’s College chapel and wanders in. Here he meets Iris Bellwether, medical student and cellist, and later her brother Eden, an eccentric organ scholar.

Along with Yin, Marcus and Jane, t...more
Pamela Detlor
Benjamin Wood grabbed my attention from the first sentence of his debut novel. With three bodies, two dead, one barely alive, we are introduced to a world that is shocking and undefined
Through twist, turns and “coincidence,” the puzzle unfolds: marring music, literature, psychology, religion and science, life and death, with an unhealthy dose of madness. Wood’s prose flow, effortlessly, from page to page – chapter to chapter. The pace is such that there is no good place to close the book and set...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Finished August 13, 2012

Some pretty twisted shit. Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
It is difficult to put this book in a nutshell, but my best attempt is to compare it to a literary love child -- it's the ideal combination of a modern version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby meets Donna Tartt's The Secret History. According to the blurb on the top inside cover of the dust jacket, The Bellwether Revivals is "a sophisticated debut novel about the hypnotic influence of love, the beguiling allure of money and the haunting power of music."

But it's more than that. It's a st...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book is really about 4.33 stars, with just a few little things keeping it from 5 stars in my view.

The story is intense. The book starts with three bodies, and then jumps you into the story a year or so earlier to explain how they got to that point. By the time I got back to that point, I'd forgotten the bodies in the beginning, and it was horrifying all over again.

The Bellwethers are a family living in Cambridge, where their children are college-aged. Eden, the oldest, is the organist at...more
I picked this up because of it's seeming parallels with the fabulous The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Most of the books that claim to be along the lines of Secret History have always somewhat disappointed me. This one however was different ....

This is possibly one of the truest comparable books to Secret History I've encountered. It's very 'classily' written and has a slightly sinister undercurrent which pulls you in nicely and the ending was unexpected AND didn't disappoint me.

The main reaso...more
If you're looking for a book filled with characters both flat AND static, wooden dialogue, and false emotion, you've come to the right place.

I couldn't be arsed to care for a single one of the characters in this novel. Oscar has no personality. Iris likes Oscar for reasons unknown to me. Eden is a pretentious jackass with no redeeming qualities to speak of. Marcus (German), Jane (lovable doofus who is actually smart but acts like a doofus on purpose so everyone else looks good), and Yin (token A...more
Ian Young
“There is no great genius without some note of madness” runs the strap line for The Bellweather Revivals, an entertaining first novel with some dark undertones by Benjamin Wood. The story is told mainly from the perspective of Oscar Lowe, a clever but uneducated young man working as a nursing home assistant in Cambridge. Oscar falls in with a close knit group of privileged students which includes Eden Bellweather and his sister Iris, and gradually becomes part of their circle. Oscar forms a rela...more
This book is absolutely superb for about 3/4 but stumbles and falls down badly in the end when it becomes cheap psycho-melodrama, eschewing the potentialities of before.

Definitely a page turner and while the main character Oscar is a bit improbable in some ways, he is very compelling and you cannot help but root for him and his quite unlikely love story with Iris Bellwether, a medical student at Cambridge.

But there is a hitch and it's not Iris' rich surgeon father or her Church going snobbish m...more
Bookkaholic Magazine
(See our full review over at Bookkaholic.) Themes of science versus superstition, the power of music, and the extent of family loyalty make for a simultaneously weighty and brisk read. The Bellwether Revivals bears striking resemblances to The Secret History by Donna Tartt, what with its elegantly sinister tale of secrets amongst a group of posh college students. If you like your fiction to be intelligent and stylish as well as suspenseful – along the lines of Gone Girl and Liza Klaussmann’s ...more
Original Review:

Summary: The Bellwether Revivals takes place mainly at King’s College, Cambridge and the surrounding area. (Don’t you love it already?) Oscar Lowe is an outsider who works in a nursing home nearby who falls in love with the privileged medical student. As he dives into her world he realizes that the life on the other side isn’t always as beautiful as it seems.

Bechdel Test?: Unfortunately no. The book is from the perspective of a male charac...more
His first novel, the author tells this gothic tale "of a man who believes music can not only affect emotions but also heal." More so, a man who believes he holds the power to heal.

Can it be true or is he delusional?

We are introduced to Oscar Lowe. As he hears the music coming from the chapel he passes by on his walks home from work, we are introduced to siblings Iris & Eden Bellwether. Along with the introduction to their closely-knit friends, who all attend university in Cambridge, Oscar n...more
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
‘I’m not sure it’s possible to be exceptional without being a bit abnormal too. Goes with the territory.’

Oscar Lowe has escaped a humdrum life to create his own contented and independent existence away from his family in Watford, something that was more important to him at that time than continuing his education. Nevertheless he is a bright and inquisitive young man, living amongst the Cambridge colleges but outside of their world.

He meets Iris Bellwether one evening as he listens to the music c...more
Loved this book - so well written and constructed. The only tiny, tiny, tiny let down is at the end where perhaps the legal aspects weren't as well researched and accurate as they could have been. Otherwise I loved it. I really felt I'd entered another world as I read this - a modern day "Bright Young Things", Evelyn Waugh type situation. Oscar, the hero, classic outsider narrator - overtones of Nick from "The Great Gatsby". Interesting story structure in that the reader is very much an outsider...more
Ruth Seeley
I'm sure I'm not the only one whose reading develops an odd and unintended synchronicity now that it's self-directed. It fascinates me that given the vagaries of a reading schedule that's now driven by library holds arriving whenever, books loaned to me by friends as well as books bought, that I'll end up reading two novels within a month of each other that focus on brother-sister relationships. So, having just finished Pat Barker's Toby's Room, in which Elinor's quest is to find out how her bro...more
seanat (elka)
Described as part The Secret History and part Brideshead Revisited - well how could I resist?
Oscar is a care assistant in an nursing home who is drawn, despite being an atheist, to a church by its organ music. There he is irresistably attracted to Iris a Cambridge medical student and introduced to her enigmatic brother Eden and a small elite group of priviledged hangers-on.
Reality dawns on Oscar ,as he falls in love with Iris, that her brother is a deeply disturbed character who believes himsel...more
Lari Don
I picked up this book because it has a maze on the cover (in the UK edition I read, anyway!) and I’m a bit of a sucker for stories set in mazes. However, there are no mazes inside the novel, but the story and writing were sufficiently complex, beautiful and well-constructed, that I didn’t mind the lack of a literal garden maze!
This is a book about the incredible, but also limited, power of music. It’s an excellent novel, which follows the relationship between Oscar, a young man working in an ol...more
Wood's debut is auspicious. His first novel models clear prose, deep and consistent character development, and a mastery of tension. Those reading the flyleaf won't find the premise new: a young man encounters a group of privileged youths and gets drawn into their midst, only to find that the sweetness of their seemingly carefree and entitled existence not only hides their own sorrows but also will be his emotional and intellectual undoing. A touch of Brideshead Revisited here. Yet Wood's novel...more
One late October evening, Oscar is drawn towards the chapel of King's College by the mesmerising sound of the organ playing within. There he meets the beautiful Iris Bellwether and the man responsible for the music, her brother Eden. They are from a different world, students at Cambridge whilst Oscar is a humble care assistant at a nursing home nearby. He soon falls in love with Iris, spending more time with her friends and family, learning that all might not be idyllic in the Bellwether househo...more
If you say Gothic I am there. I really love an atmospheric English read but this didn't do it for me. A strange meandering plot and characters I couldn't care about sunk this one for me.

Oscar Lowe is a true academic but he can't afford college so he does his studying on the side while he works a nursing home job. He falls for poor little rich girl Iris Bellwether which probably would have been just dandy except for the fact that she has a crazy brother with bit of a cruel streak. Eden Bellwether...more
Lydia Presley
Every once in a while I'll start to read a book and within just a few minutes, I'll get goosebumps. That happened to me with The Bellwether Revivals - and honestly, I was surprised by it.

First of all - this book is described as a "masterpiece,"; a word that immediately sets me on edge because I feel as if I'm being set up to be disappointed. Secondly - the book centers around music - yet another thing that is bound to disappoint me since very few authors actually take the time to write intellige...more
So I'm on page 200 of this book(right around halfway through), and I'm not sure I can force myself to finish it. I've sort of been skimming already. The beginning intrigued me. The book basically starts at the end of the story -- with bodies being carted away from a mansion, then goes back in time and tells the story of how they ended up there. This technique made me desperately want to find out what happens to get there. However, there's little else in this book that pulls me in, and so I'm lef...more
I spent a lot of time not reading this book, partly because of having lots of other things that needed doing, and partly because it seemed to be much too self-consciously "clever".

I was also irritated by the constant use of "like" instead of "as if" in sentences such as "It seemed like he was ...". While some of the characters in the book may have spoken in this way, I find it beggars belief that an elderly retired Professor of Literature at Cambridge University would do so. Perhaps I am being...more
Think I get what Benjamin Wood is up to here, taking an old-fashioned, almost Victorian plot and placing it in a realistic 21st century university setting (Cambridge, specifically), in hopes that the latter will ground the former. But I don't think Wood quite pulls it off--long stretches of the book are just flat, neither creepy nor particularly insightful on setting or character. And in a fairly realistic setting, contrivances (like Iris' willingness to go to extreme, convoluted, totally secret...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Snake Ropes
  • The Lessons
  • Westlake Soul
  • Web of Angels
  • The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton
  • Alys, Always
  • Red Joan
  • When Nights Were Cold
  • The Devil's Madonna
  • The Last Weekend
  • The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder
  • What the Heart Remembers
  • Kino
  • The Year of the Gadfly
  • Thy Neighbor: A Novel
  • Life! Death! Prizes!
  • The Solitary House
  • Remember Why You Fear Me: The Best Dark Fiction of Robert Shearman
BENJAMIN WOOD was born in 1981 and grew up in northwest England. In 2004, he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to attend the MFA Creative Writing programme at the University of British Columbia. During his tenure as fiction editor of Canadian literary journal, PRISM international, the publication was awarded the Writers' Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. Benjamin's short...more
More about Benjamin Wood...

Share This Book

“Actually, I think it's the opposite. We know each other so well there isn't anything left to say. Sometimes it's nice just sitting here with you all, thinking. It's only best friends who can be comfortable with silence, wouldn't you say?” 73 likes
“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 kind of logic, it's just unfettered optimism, grounded in nothing but faith in things beyond our control.” 13 likes
More quotes…