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The Bellwether Revivals

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  1,649 ratings  ·  325 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
Hardcover, 428 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by McClelland & Stewart (first published February 1st 2012)
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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 CareyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2012
22nd out of 151 books — 267 voters
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Modern Gothic
101st out of 413 books — 954 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Finished August 13, 2012

Some pretty twisted shit. Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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
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
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
Having read the hype that this was somehow a modern version of Brideshead Revisited I was rather disappointed as it was more like Morse meets the Midsomer mummers with its cut-out characters. I struggled to read it and nearly gave up more than once. Still, there was some promise considering that it was a first novel, although it did feel that he had written this while at university and it had taken a few years to get it published.
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
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
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
This book is so different to anything I've read before. I really enjoyed Wood's writing style and I liked the fact that the storyline was not predictable at all. This is the kind of book that stays with you long after you've finished reading it.
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
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
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
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
First off, I really really liked this book. Like everybody else i was drawn in by the beginning, that promised so much and, in my humble opinion, did not disappoint. The psychological aspect of it all was downright fascinating and i couldn't help but fall for Eden‘s self-assured proclamations of his healing powers at times. I admit, there were moments where i couldn't help but believe in him, just because of how utterly he believed in himself.
I know that many people were aggravated by the charac
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
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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...
The Ecliptic Fort Lafayette: Or Love and Secession, a Novel (Classic Reprint) Speech of Benjamin Wood, of New York: On the State of the Union, in the House of Representatives, May 16th, 1862 (Classic Reprint)

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“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?” 93 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.” 14 likes
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