Bright, bookish Oscar Lowe has made a life for himself amid the colleges and spires of Cambridge and yet is a world apart from the students who study in the hallowed halls. He has come to love the quiet routine of his job as a care assistant at a nursing home, where he has forged a close relationship with its most ill-tempered resident, Dr Paulsen.
But when Oscar is lured into the chapel at King’s College by the ethereal sound of an organ, he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student. He follows her into a world of scholarship, wealth, and privilege, and soon becomes embroiled in the machinations of her older brother, Eden.
A charismatic but troubled musical prodigy, Eden persuades his sister and their close-knit circle of friends into a series of disturbing experiments. He believes that music — with his unique talent to guide it — has the power to cure, and will stop at nothing to prove himself right. As the line between genius and madness blurs, Oscar fears the danger that could await them all.
Le Prix du Roman Fnac
Le Prix Baudelaire
Il Premio Speciale Edoardo Kihlgren
Opera Prima Per Una Letteratura Europea
The Costa First Novel Award
The Commonwealth Book Prize
Le Prix du Roman Etranger
The Waverton Good Read Award
The International Dublin Literary Award
The Desmond Elliott Prize
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program
Dextrously unsettling and deeply empathetic ... The Bellwether Revivals renders the cruelties and frailties of genius with acuity and tenderness, exploring the naïve sophistication of bright young minds, the moral immunity granted to coteries of privilege and the true nature of mastery in art. Seductive, resonant and disquieting, Benjamin Wood’s novel captures strains and cadences, qualities of music that are rarely rendered except in sound.
author of The Luminaries
An accomplished novel, suffused with intelligence and integrity. Wood gives voice to theories and ideas in a lucid and accessible way … This skilful novel has flow, pace and a lightness of touch.
Hypnotic and mesmerizing… About a privileged set of Cambridge students and one brilliant music scholar on the edge of insanity, it has echoes of Brideshead, Donna Tartt, or Naomi Alderman’s The Lessons. Really very special.
From the moment young Oscar follows the organ music in Kings College chapel, I was ready to follow the talented Benjamin Wood anywhere. Wood writes beautifully about music, hypnotism, old people and the lush landscapes of Cambridge. And his intricate plot carries both Oscar and the reader to a place where the stakes, finally, are nothing less than life and death.
author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
In prose that's effortlessly vivid... Wood’s confident, sometimes creepy debut novel draws you in — like the faintly heard strain from that hauntingly played pipe-organ — and then, once you’re inside, holds on, ever tightening its grip.
Independent on Sunday
The Bellwether Revivals is a stunningly good debut novel, a thrilling story of music and its hold on a group of young people’s minds and lives. Benjamin Wood writes with vigor, precision and intensity, with a story that will keep readers up all night.
author of The Cellist of Sarajevo
Wood vividly dramatizes the quandary that Oscar finds himself in: he’s so entranced by Iris and the Bellwether circle that he dreads challenging Eden directly, yet Eden could be a danger to himself and others. The showdown occurs at the remote estate owned by the absent Bellwether parents ... a place where the Phantom of the Opera would feel right at home.
Previous authors have explored the proximity of genius to madness, but Wood treats this familiar theme with a freshness and intelligence that hint at greater things to come.
It's scary … very scary indeed.
The novel has as its lodestone Brideshead Revisited … a timely examination of the conflict between religion and skepticism, a theme explored with more rigour than in this novel’s template. There, we rarely doubt that Waugh is on the side of grace and the supernatural. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is also in the DNA here, and there are echoes of another literary analysis of the unhealthy emotional bond between a brother and sister, L P Hartley’s Eustace and Hilda … The fact that Wood can hold his own in such heavyweight company is a measure of his achievement.
Discovering the world of Benjamin Wood’s characters is like unlocking a series of psychological puzzles, mysterious and completely engrossing. Impossible to put down, The Bellwether Revivals is a brilliant investigation into obsessions and their entirely unpredictable consequences.
author of Paper Conspiracies
Wood’s novel is weighty and so he sets himself a challenge. Fortunately, in the main, he pulls it off, at times triumphantly … It would be an overstatement to suggest that Wood does for Cambridge what Evelyn Waugh does for Oxford but, to give him his due, he accurately captures, or recreates, that similar youthful hedonism and folly, and Eden is as offbeat and infuriating a creation as Sebastian Flyte... Wood’s own original stamp is his treatment of that brittle boundary between genius and madness, and its inventiveness and execution makes this debut a compulsive read.
An intense, claustrophobic debut in which a troubled Cambridge student believes he has the gift to heal … As events spiral out of control, the conflicts between madness and reason, religion and blind faith, become dangerously real.
The text hints at the plot lines and stylistic whirls of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and W. Somerset Maugham’s The Magician and other memorable British fiction from the first half of the last century … [Wood] can write lovely prose and is able to maintain a page-turning narrative pace.
Wood creates intriguing characters and situations that are difficult to resist. The ultimate resolution of this fast-paced novel is equally mesmerizing.
When Wood allows Oscar, the voice of the novel, to wander the history-saturated city [of Cambridge] the novel soars ... Cambridge itself is the antagonist and allurement of subtlest force in Oscar’s life, and the stellar character of The Bellwether Revivals.
Eden Bellwether is one of the most intriguing and disturbing literary characters I've come across, and he's what makes Benjamin Wood's The Bellwether Revivals such a page-turner. This is a stunner of a debut novel, and Wood creates a palpable sense of dread and foreboding throughout. Though he deals with weighty subjects such as the religion vs science debate, psychology, and the power of music, the plot never suffers, moving along at a brisk pace.
CityTV Friday bookclub
Accomplished, atmospheric, and suspenseful. Wood’s prose attains the high level of craft we expect from literary novels.
Quill & Quire
An intellectual and eerie novel … part psychological thriller, part philosophical coming-of-age grand saga.
New York Times
Benjamin Wood's debut novel, The Bellwether Revivals, draws readers in, much as Eden's organ draws Oscar, a young nursing-home care assistant, into King's College Chapel, at Cambridge. It doesn't matter that Oscar is an atheist. Before he knows it, he's sat through an entire service – just as the reader has stayed up all night, seduced by Wood's vivid prose, swept up in a crescendo of suspense.
Globe and Mail
This meaty and satisfying psychological thriller is an impressive literary debut… Wood finds a way to keep [his plot] fresh and interesting, even as much of the action unfolds in an old and ominous estate. Wood also powerfully conveys the transformational qualities of music, essential to fully realizing Eden's character. An entertaining read.
Winnipeg Free Press
Benjamin Wood’s debut is strong on character; a well-moulded cast of individuals help the plot run along fluidly… Finely crafted, well plotted and outwardly readable — a very strong debut indeed.
We Love This Book
Rare for being both beautifully written and a great page-turner. You can't help but root for Oscar as he takes on this world of privilege and academia, which makes the ending all the more heartbreaking. You won't be able to put it down.
Oh how I loved this novel! I was drawn in from the very first sentence and pretty much didn’t put it down until I reached the last. This is the kind of story that makes you want to hole up under the covers and not come out until you’ve uncovered the mysteries at its heart. I find myself constantly thinking of Wood’s characters --wonderful, surprising Oscar Lowe and those beautiful, doomed Bellwethers. It utterly consumed me, body and soul.
Joanna Smith Rakoff,
author of My Salinger Year
This gripping, creepy debut is part romance, part horror story … beautifully written … races towards a chilling conclusion.
A superb storyteller, Wood writes a chilling state-of-the-art novel set in the modern-day academic world of Cambridge and revolving around the healing power of music, the effects of existential madness, and the collateral damage of a thwarted love affair. In The Bellwether Revivals, the tension is always near the surface, providing an increasing sense of menace to the everyday lives of the characters.
Praise be, a brilliant debut novel reminiscent of the moral explorations of Iris Murdoch and Zadie Smith but younger in temperament, more directly theatrical.
Three Guys One Book
Wood moves the reader deftly through pastoral Cambridge, into the British upper crust, and ultimately into the mad mind of Eden himself.
This first novel is most notable for its acute characterizations and flowing prose that engrosses the reader … Wood is definitely a writer to watch.
This thrilling campus novel begins with death … The story unravels backwards as Oscar, a working-class nurse and wide-eyed Nick Carraway figure, is brought in as the outsider-witness … becoming embroiled in the group's sinister experimentations. A heady, Costa award shortlisted debut that hypnotises from the very start.
A highly engaging debut.
Some writers weave magic with words. Some are able to breathe into being, between the black and white lines of their novels, manifestations of wonder. And when this magical birth is done by hands debuting in publishing, the feat itself because something that verges on the miraculous. Benjamin Wood has accomplished such a task with his novel The Bellwether Revivals.