Lydia Presley's Reviews > The Bells

The Bells by Richard Harvell
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Aug 27, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010, fiction, historic-fiction

I wanted to start my review of this book off with quotes from its magnificent contents - but unfortunately I was reading an advanced copy of it so this is not an option.

As a music student there are times I pick up a book with a musical theme and, more often than not, I end up disappointed. This can be for a few reasons: the authors naivety when it comes to the skill and discipline, the lack of research placed in musical history (relying instead on a few famous names and works).

Richard Harvell did not disappoint me.

THE BELLS is the story of a young boy, the son of a deaf-mute woman who lives, for all intents and purposes, in the belfry of a church. She "hears" the vibrations of the bells; sounds that would deafen anyone else that came close to them. But Moses, her son, is far from deafened. Instead hearing these bells in her womb has given him an extraordinary ability - but one that leads to a life of pain and uncertainty.

Richard Harvell approaches the custom of castrating young boys to preserve their soprano voices with a heavy, knowledgeable hand. This is not light-hearted historical fiction. This is fiction that reminded me of Follett's "Pillars of the Earth". It's detailed, horrifying and so amazingly fascinating I had a difficult time putting the book down.

In speaking to a friend recently she was shocked that this custom existed. It made me realize that, to many who do not have a musical background, this is a custom that is frequently overlooked when reading and writing historical stories. But can you blame us? This is not something that would be an easy or enlightening topic. Up until the early 19th century the castrati performed due to women not being allowed to sing. While the church took the official disapproving stance on this the opera theaters worshiped these men as angels.

This is a book - a story that sits on me heavily. It is not something I can easily set aside while moving on to the next book on the list. This is a book I need to talk to others about and encourage them to check out once it is made available. If you love historical fiction I recommend you do so as well.
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