The Bellwether Revivals

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin WoodI underestimated The Bellwether Revivals in my previous post.

Yes, I would agree with reviewers who say that Benjamin Wood’s book, with its dysfunctional and wealthy family in crisis, its love triangle, its debate about faith and scepticism, owes a debt to Brideshead Revisited. (If, as Christopher Booker claims, there are only seven basic plots available, then such debts are inevitable.) I could say that there are parallels with Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love, but I enjoyed The Bellwether Revivals in its own right.

The novel starts at the end and then goes back to show us how the tragedy moved towards its inevitable conclusion. We know from the start that people have been murdered. Wood keeps us in suspense as we find out who and why.

Oscar is an outsider in the world of the privileged and pious Bellwethers. He’s an atheist from a humble background who gave up the chance to go to university so he could be independent. He falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a Cambridge student, and is drawn into an unhealthy, claustrophobic situation created by neglect, delusion and indulgence.

I could question the Romantic legacy that treats madness and genius as conjoined twins, but it’s hard to escape.

Some of the characters are developed very well but this novel is outstanding in its portrayal of family and peer dynamics. We see how each person contributed to the outcome. This is an unsettling, atmospheric and effective novel.

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