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The Bells

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,328 ratings  ·  672 reviews
I grew up as the son of a man who could not possibly have been my father. Though there was never any doubt that my seed had come from another man, Moses Froben, Lo Svizzero, called me “son.” And I called him “father.” On the rare occasions when someone dared to ask for clarification, he simply laughed as though the questioner were obtuse. “Of course he’s not my son!” he wo ...more
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Crown
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,328 ratings  ·  672 reviews

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Keilani Ludlow
Mar 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
Spoilers -I'm probably going to get chewed out for my moral views for this review but -
Ugh. The underlying story is interesting. The son of a deaf/mute woman from a small hill town has through the course of events, developed or maybe even been born with the ability to hear sound very differently, hear little details, great distance, how bits and pieces of sound go together. His description of what he hears is in great color and detail. It could be beautiful but the surrounding of the story is co
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Absolutely fantastic! The ending gave me chills. This was a little unknown book to me but one that left me in awe. It was written about an 18th century opera singer and the struggles he went through in his life. From his impoverished beginnings where he learned the love and feel for his mother's bells, to the opera house where he became a great virtuoso, the reader becomes involved with his life, his friends, his love, and his ability to sing like no other.

The writing made the character ever so
JG (Introverted Reader)
Moses Froben, an opera singer of world-renown, raised a son who could not possibly have been his own. When his son asked how they had come to be together, Moses would studiously avoid the question. On Moses's death, however, his son found a memoir that told of Moses's humble beginnings and how father and son found each other.

The side of me that loves dark, convoluted, Gothic stories absolutely loved this book! A mother widely believed to be mad, an evil father, life with monks, and love against
Jun 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
It’s Cry to Heaven meets Perfume.

The author writes gorgeous, elegant prose and knows how to keep the reader continuously interested. The title made me think at first of Edgar Allan Poe, and the story indeed includes several events as grotesque and horrifying as anything in Poe, although the style is more sedate and much less baroque, which I suppose is appropriate for a musical tale set during the neoclassical period.

The main character is prodigiously talented and suffers terribly throughout th
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I tried to describe Richard Harvell's The Bells to a few friends today. After I told them it was about rape, kidnapping, castration and a bit improbable, they wanted to know why they'd want to read it. Good question. My opening pitch was how I absolutely loved this book. It seems to be a book you're going to love or hate. Every time I try to sum up the feelings this story provoked in me, I can't seem to get it right.

I was quickly drawn into the story of a deaf-mute woman who is a ringer of three
Holly Weiss
"Resounds with Operatic Melodrama"

How ironic that Nicolai, the protector of our musical hero says, "“Such music! Opera! How could I waste a moment with a book!” Although the writing is at times contrived, the power of visceral sound that reverberates from the pages of The Bells is astounding. If you are a lover of theatrics and sumptuous opera, this book is for you. Overwrought with all of the excesses we revel in on the opera stage, this opera lover read the book more with her ears than her eye
Nov 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lisa by: Erin
4.5 stars

I wish I could have listened to a soundtrack while reading the beautiful descriptions of sound in this book. It was hard to put this one down. It has a little bit of everything orphans, monks, an evil abbot, controlling aunt and sinister Mother-in-law. The best part was the on the edge of my seat love story. At one point I felt like the novel was getting a bit overly dramatic and far fetched, but I decided it is a story in part about opera and singing so I just completely submitted to t
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Bells is an almost magical story about a boy who, although he is born of a deaf mute mother, is ironically gifted with the ability to hear and distinguish the slightest and infinite variety of sounds heard in everything from the greatest operatic mass sung in Latin, to the sound of a metal key rubbing against the lock of a bedroom door, to the slightest breath from a baby’s lungs. Born into poverty as the bastard child of a woman who lived off of the charity of the local townspeople and the ...more
Dustin the wind Crazy little brown owl
If you're looking for a beautiful, overlooked, underappreciated treasure of a novel - here's one.
The Bells is rich with themes of legacy and purpose.

I'm rather jealous of the author - born in the United States and now living in Switzerland. My ancestors immigrated from Switzerland in 1861 and I often daydream of visiting that ancestral country someday. I'm assuming Richard Harvell is still in Switzerland since we haven't heard from the author in ten years.

The Bells is a novel that intrigued me
Christy B
I've read a few books this year that have impressed me, but I've been waiting for a book like this. The kind of book that grabs me and doesn't let go, not even long after I'm finished. The kind of book whose story will always linger in my mind.

The Bells is the story of Moses, a boy whose voice enchants anyone who hears, but like so many boys of the time, Moses is a victim of castration, an act that will preserve his beautiful voice, but cause him both great physical and emotional pain. He both h
This book is unlike any piece of historical fiction I’ve read before. Gone are the queens and other royal figures, the courtiers and painters. Moses, the son of a deaf-mute, grew up in a belfry before being cast out, found by two monks and taken to live in the Abbey of St. Gall where he sings in the choir. He is the one that no one wants with a operetic voice so in demand it becomes his curse. Gothic in tone with gorgeous language that has an ear for sound this book will pull you into the landsc ...more
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction at its best! Loved this story and the characters!
I am surprised this author has not written more since this novel.
It is such a unique story.
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: revue, hissy-fic
The marketing comparison of The Bells to Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is misleading and appropriate at the same time.

The Bells, like Perfume, is an adventure story, but of a far different nature. The characters that helped or hindered the hero’s progress were fun to get to know. I feel that books could be produced about their adventures as well. Like what Anne Rice did with all of the vampire characters.

Speaking of Anne Rice; the comparison should have paralleled Cry to Heaven.

The Bells did
Sep 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I truly enjoyed this story of love, loyalty, being true and steadfast. The author focussed completely on the texture of sound, how sound reverberates through life, life, friendship. Sound is a symbol of Life, felt at it's deepest and most pure.
I really liked how "bells" played such a large role in this book and portrayed truth, solidity, joy, pain and, most of all, love.
This book has been said to "do for sound what Perfume: The Story of a Murderer did for smell" and, having read Perfume, I'd h
Mar 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lori by: Books on the Nightstand
This was another wonderful recommendation from Books on the Nightstand. I'll not go into much detail laying out the general storyline because you can read that elsewhere and it just doesn't adequately prepare you for what an amazing jewel this book is. The description from the Goodreads summary reveals that the main character, "was born in a belfry high in the Swiss Alps where his mother served as the keeper of the loudest and most beautiful bells in the land. Shaped by the bells’ glorious music ...more
Nov 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could convey how much I loved this book without sounding like a gushing teeny bopper. Harvell's straight-forward writing and beautiful descriptions wrapped me up and carried me along on a fascinating journey. Every character felt so real to me, and the story was so wonderful. I loved the historical setting, and the way that the theme of the bells was woven throughout.
A few reasons why this was a five-star book for me, but may not necessarily be so for you:
1. It dealt heavily with music,
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ellen, fans of music, especially opera
This was an amazing book. A man has written to the boy whom he raised as his son, the story of his life - and what a story! Born to a deaf mother in a bell tower in the 18th century Swiss Alps, Moses Froben goes on to become Lo Svizzero, one of the most highly acclaimed opera singers in Europe. How he got from the bell tower to Europe's celebrated opera houses is an astonishing tale. His father tries to kill him. He is rescued by two monks and taken to the monestary where his beautiful voice is ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I almost passed this book by thinking I had no desire to read about opera but decided to give it a try based on the recommendations by Random House's library marketing reps.

This historical novel set in the 1700s about "musicos" (also known as castratos and countertenors) during the birth of opera is definitely on my best of 2011 list. The scope and historical elements were fabulous and the music was sublime, but there are a few heartbreaking moments of brutality and sadness. Anyone wanting a swe
Neil Cochrane
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The jacket claimed that "'The Bells' does for the ears what 'Perfume' did for the nose," and the reviewer was completely on the mark. 'Perfume' is one of my favorite books because it was such a sensory experience. Similarly, 'The Bells' heightens your awareness of sound even as you read, sympathizing with Moses as he experiences and defines the world through sound. Unlike 'Perfume''s Grenouille, though, Moses is a very sympathetic and lovable character; he is as dear and true ...more
Margaret Carpenter
The Bells is exquisite. Sensual in the truest sense of the word, it is first and foremost an exploration of the landscape of sound. For a few hundred pages one is given the ability to experience life as the protagonist Moses knows it, a world of wonder and endless discovery. Every city offers new sounds with new meanings, and Moses is enchanted by all of them. The book dances on the line between reality and magic, never quite becoming one or the other. The plot and the characters are improbable, ...more
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Michael
Shelves: i-own, botns
Author, Harvell, is a great writer and story teller. This intriguing story was new to me; 18th century opera. Sound boring? Not at all. Sound and voice play a huge role as does surprise, a love story between mother and son, two men and a boy, and son and lover. Religion and escape are here too. The story kept changing and it surprised me each time. I'm glad I didn't know what the story was supposed be so that I was caught off guard. I'm making this sound like a thriller but it isn't at all. It's ...more
Freyja Vanadis
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Strange book. I have absolutely no idea why I put it on my wish list, or where I even heard of it.

I finally finished it this evening. Oh my god, what a ridiculously silly book and what a terrible waste of time. If I could've given it negative stars, I would. I don't even want to begin to describe what happens in the story or what the characters are like. If I didn't have such a strong aversion to throwing books away, that's exactly what I'd do to this one. Instead, I hope someone takes
Jan 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book was terribly written and plotted. It read like a striving first novel - full of flowery sentences with way too many descriptors and overwrought similes. The plot was totally inane and unbelievable. Too bad because the subject - eunuch opera singer in 1700's orphaned and raised by monks - sounded like it could be interesting. It was all I could do to finish it - probably should have just given up. ...more
Oldest selection on my TBR list - Added January 8, 2011.

I have no idea why it took me eight years to finally read this book. All I can suggest is that everyone look through their TBR lists to see if they have any hidden gems there. This book was certainly a surprise to me. I don’t know who told me about it or how I even ended up my list but I am so happy that I read finally it. Definitely a 5-star read. If you like historical fiction, read this!
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I originally gave this 3.5 stars, but now that I have sat with the aftermath of the book for a few days, I upped it to a 4. The story stuck with me and that has increased my appreciation. I loved the way the book talks about song and sound. And there are interesting perspectives on different kinds of love.
Caly ☯ Crazy Book Lady
10 Stars if I could. The combination of story and characters, historical fact and fiction along with great writing make this one of the best I have had the pleasure to read.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers of unusual, musical, historical fiction
Although this is my third time reading this book, this is my only review of it. I remember rushing through it on my first time around, equally amazed by the tale itself as by the background it illuminated for me. I felt very ignorant of the 18th century operatic culture that "castratos" were such an important, but appalling, part of. I was enthralled by the story and knew I would read it again. When I read it the second time, I felt a certain abhorrence due to the excruciating detail of some of ...more
Sep 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
From the minute I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. The Bells, tells the story of Moses Froben, who was born in a belfry to a deaf-mute, in a small and extremely poor village of the Swiss Alps in the 1700's. The villagers thought his mother was crazy, because she was skittish, dirty, and hid from the village people in caves or the belfry. She cared about nothing except her son, and her ringing of the bells every day. Moses as a young child, was allowed to live in the belfry w ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a breathtaking book. For me, it's awesomeness lies in Harvell's descriptive passages, where he makes sounds come alive and assume a persona. The sounds of bells, of music, of breathe, of hooves on cobbles, of lovemaking, of a cat's hiss, of so many sounds so beautifully described that they become a character that invades the book in such a magical and believeable way that it would be impossible for the book to exist without it. The author begins the book with a letter from the narrator's ...more
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RICHARD HARVELL was born in New Hampshire, USA, and studied English literature at Dartmouth College. He now lives in Basel, Switzerland, with his wife and children. The Bells is his first novel.

About The Bells:

INDIE NEXT PICK, October, 2010

"The Bells does for the ears what Perfume did for the nose. A novel to engage the senses as well as tickle the mind."

—Sarah Dunant, international bestselling a

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