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A Reader of Fictions: Losing a Whole Year - Third Eye Blind (+ Giveaway)

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Losing a Whole Year - Third Eye Blind (+ Giveaway)

The Bellwether Revivals

Author: Benjamin Wood
Pages: 415
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date:  June 28, 2012
Source: Review copy from Penguin in exchange for an honest review

Description from Goodreads:
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 the river near Cambridge is told by Oscar, a young, bright working class man who has fallen in love with an upper-class Cambridge student, Iris, and thereby become entangled with a group of close friends, led by Iris's charismatic, brilliant, possibly dangerous brother. For Eden Bellwether believes he can heal -- and perhaps more -- through the power of music.

In this masterful debut, we too are seduced by this gilded group of young people, entranced by Eden's powerful personality and his obvious talent as a musician, and caught off guard by the strangeness of Iris and Eden's parents. And we find ourselves utterly unsure as to whether Eden Bellweather is a saviour or a villain, and whether Oscar will be able to solve this mystery in time to save himself, if not everyone else.

First Sentence: "They heard the caterwaul of sirens, and saw the dust rising underneath the ambulance wheels at the far end of the driveway, and soon the darkening garden was a wash of flashing blue lights."

The Bellwether Revivals begins with one heck of a hook. While most of the chapters are lengthy, it opens with one of two short pages. These pack quite a wallop, though. The reader learns that there are two dead bodies and one nigh dead being carted off by the paramedics. At this point, the readers has no idea what happened, but most definitely wants to know. This technique of a small climactic scene from the end of the book being placed at the opening to create a mystery and tension to push through the novel is certainly popular, but Wood has used it effectively.

My curiosity from those two pages is what propelled me through The Bellwether Revivals. The novel, as a whole, just did not call to me. While it is masterfully written, and will no doubt acquire much critical acclaim, the novel did not speak to me on a personal level. I was bored through most of it, a feeling aided by the incredibly long chapters.

Though I haven't actually read Brideshead Revisited, from what I know of it (having seen two film adaptations), the comparison is apt. On a basic level, The Bellwether Revivals is one of those stories about a poor boy becoming caught up with a fantastically intelligent, beautiful, wealthy family (particularly Iris and Eden Bellwether), and seeing that things aren't necessarily so shiny in their world. This plot line has never really been my favorite, but I think the book will definitely appeal to fans of The Great Gatsby, Brideshead Revisited, and Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

The psychological aspects of the story, more than the wtf happened of the opening, was the most intriguing part of the book to me. I can't talk about it too much without giving anything away, but there are is a lot of psychoanalysis. Additionally, there are some very interesting discussions of faith and its healing powers. On an intellectual, this held much appeal for me.

My difficulty with the story was definitely in the characters. I feel like I complain about this a lot, but, when I read, I read primarily for character. I lose myself in a story through the characters. Although I did sympathize with Oscar's plight somewhat, I couldn't empathize at all, and, in his shoes, I would definitely have run for the hills from this crazy ass family.

The Bellwethers themselves may be charismatic and wealthy, but I just didn't see the attraction they held for him. Well, that's not true. They represented a life he could have been living but wasn't: that of academia. Still, their individual personalities were not at all likeable; they were all very bipolar, very changeable from one moment to the next. The whole friend group was so insular and self-flattering, not to mention pandering endlessly to Eden Bellwether. I was not invested in any of them, which is why finding out which of them did not survive was seriously anticlimactic.

As I said, though, I know others have loved and will love this novel. I would recommend not judging solely off of my opinion. The novel is very well written, but simply not my cup of cocoa. As such, I am offering up my copy to one of my readers. Since I'm shipping it, the giveaway is US only. Sorry! I always have at least one international giveaway a month, though, so do check back, non-US folks.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "‘I’ve been writing a lot about hope. 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 kindd of logic, it’s just unfettered optimism, grounded in nothing but faith in things beyond our control.’"

"Your voice sounds like money and your face is cute
But your daddy left you with no love
You touch everything with a velvet glove and
Now you wanna try your life with sin
You wanna be down with the down and in
Always copping my truths
I kinda get the feeling like I'm being used
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Blogger Ashley said...

Your review has me torn. On the one hand I really love books like The Great Gatsby. On the other, I also need to be drawn in by the characters. Maybe it will be a library read for me.

June 25, 2012 at 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shame that this ended up a bit of a disappointment. I had high hopes for this one. I may still check it out, but will probably not purchase it. Thank you for your detailed review.

June 27, 2012 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

You should definitely check it out if you like those other books. I didn't especially love the characters in Gatsby, so you may just have different tastes! :)

June 28, 2012 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The writing was really good, but this just isn't really my type of story it turns out. The whole spoiled rich kid plot line tends to leave me cold. I just sit there going 'CRY MOAR ANON!'

It may appeal more to you. I don't think it was a bad book, just not for me.

June 28, 2012 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Anita Yancey said...

Sounds like a great book, and I love that it has a mystery to it. Thanks for having the giveaway.

June 28, 2012 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger esldiane@gmail.com said...

Can't wait to start reading this book

July 5, 2012 at 4:02 PM  
Anonymous Sarah Bauman said...

Can't wait to read the book. It sounds great.

July 5, 2012 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger allisonmariecat said...

I'm intrigued. Sounds like there's some good stuff in there, and it's just a question of the reader's preferences. I'm curious if I'll agree.

July 5, 2012 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I definitely think this one will be completely amazing with the right reader! That wasn't me, sadly, but I'm passing the book on suspecting that the next owner will probably love it!

July 5, 2012 at 4:10 PM  

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