The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
Some will automatically disregard the book because the character interaction has been done before—regular working class guy is drawn into a circle of brilliant and privileged college friends. Then there are the classical music references, which might be dismissed as boring. But to skip this read for either reason would be a mistake. It is one of the most riveting literary fiction books I’ve read in a long time.
Oscar works as an aide at a nursing home in Cambridge where King’s College is located. The college is recognized by its Gothic architectural style and esteemed for producing prime ministers, arch bishops, famous novelists, respected economists, and the like.
While walking home from work one evening, Oscar hears music coming from the college chapel. The ethereal style of playing inexplicably draws him inside where he meets Iris Bellwether, and I guess you could say begins to fall in love with her. Iris is a medical student and the organist is her brother, Eden. Oscar quickly becomes friends with the Bellwether siblings and their uncomfortably, close circle of eccentric friends.
Eden is clearly musically gifted and charismatic, but he is also controlling, and self-absorbed. He believes he can heal people through his music. Not just comfort people in distress or reduce stress, but actually mend wounds, broken bones, and perhaps cure other diseases. As proof, he drives a nail through Oscar’s hand, then against all probability, heals it.
Oscar and Iris conspire to prove Eden is a danger to himself and others, but while Iris enlisted Oscar’s assist, she struggles with seeing the task through. Eden is obsessed with demonstrating the extent of his abilities, not just to his friends and family, but clinically as well.
I was taken by Eden even though he has about every trait I associate with being a psychopath. I rooted for him as he walked a fine line between genius and madness. Even at his shocking worst, I was never certain if he was delusional or actually capable of miracle healings.
The pacing is perfect and the character interaction is believable enough to feel like an insider in the clique. Although I knew from the prelude how the book would end, I was still unprepared. In gauging the psychological suspense, when I say I held my breath through the last 40 pages, it is not metaphorically speaking.
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