There's an ever growing pile of books I want to read…
Big Review: The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
I was lucky enough to find an advance reading copy of this before the hardback release while I was working from a different store than usual and I took it and ran. Well, I did ask permission first. I thought the premise sounded really interesting and I’m a big fan of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History to which it is compared on the back cover. It’s actually out in paperback now, which just goes to show how much of a backlog I have in my to-read pile.
This book reads as a mystery, opening with the police and paramedics arriving on the scene where there are several unnamed dead bodies and the live but unconscious Eden Bellwether. To discover what happened, we must read about Oscar Lowe’s meeting and subsequent relationship with Iris Bellwether and how gets caught up with her family and friends, especially her strange but talented brother Eden.
What I liked:
Benjamin Wood’s writing was excellent and his descriptions of music and Cambridge in particular were very well done. In places, I felt that the book was carrying me away from my real life into a different world. I also found his depiction of Eden’s less sane behaviours were believable and cleverly dealt with, although I did feel that I would have liked to read a version of this story from Eden’s perspective.
This was a book that I just had to keep reading to find out what exactly had happened. The opening section was incredibly strong and the events that led directly to it in the last few chapters hit me like a punch in the gut.
I felt that the story really raised the bar towards the end. Other readers might disagree with me but I honestly found Theo Bellwether’s reaction to his son’s behaviour more interesting to read about than Oscar’s efforts and relationship with Iris in the earlier part of the book.
What I didn’t like:
I found this a little slow in places and then a bit rushed towards the end. It seemed to take me a very long time to read and I’m not sure how much of that was me and a lack of concentration and how much was the book. I know that there were times when I seemed to have been reading for quite some time without very much happening in the story but I felt like I could have used a little more after the story caught up with what had happened in the prologue.
Benjamin Wood portrays Watford as a readerless wasteland in this book. As a reader who lives in Watford, I can tell you that this is not true. The main bookshop in Watford did not close down because people here don’t buy books (they do) but because it had other problems. If I could get a bank loan to set up my own small bookshop here, I would. There’s now an untapped market of unhappy readers. Hey, anyone want to loan me some money to set up a small bookshop here?
I also found Oscar a bit irritating as a narrator. I had warmed to him by the end of the book but for a large part of the earlier sections, I felt like he was a bit blank and colourless.
I found this review very hard to write because I found the book compelling and well-written and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to you but I also feel like I didn’t particularly enjoy reading it. I think part of the problem is that some really terrible stuff happens in the story and the characters are not always particularly sympathetic. It’s definitely worth reading and the last section was hard going but also brilliant.