Author: Benjamin Wood, 2012.
Genre: Campus Novel, Psychological Thriller. Philosophy. Music.
Other Details: Hardback. 426 pages.
Bright, bookish Oscar Lowe has escaped the urban estate where he was raised and made a new life for himself amid the colleges and spires of Cambridge. He has grown to love the quiet routine of his life as a care assistant at a local nursing home, where he has forged a close friendship with the home's most ill-tempered resident, Dr. Paulsen. But when he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student at King's College, Oscar is drawn into her world of scholarship and privilege, and soon becomes embroiled in the strange machinations of her brilliant but troubled brother, Eden, who believes he can adapt the theories of a forgotten Baroque composer to heal people with music. Eden's self-belief knows no bounds, and as he draws his sister and closed circle of friends into a series of disturbing experiments to prove himself right, Oscar realises the extent of the danger facing them all... - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
There is an important lesson in novels such as this, along with 'The Poison Tree' and 'The Secret History', and that is beware of wealthy, eccentric students who befriend the quiet protagonist. This tale will surely end in tears.
The reader knows from the Prelude set in June 2003 that there will be bodies, flashing blue lights and wailing sirens. We then move back in time to the first meeting between Oscar, Iris and Eden in October of the previous year and events then play out until we revisit that opening scene once again in a stunning climax. It is an intelligent, multi-layered work that examines themes of music and philosophy, the interplay between faith and science, reason versus superstition, and the often fine line between genius and madness.
This début novel impressed me enough to purchase my own copy once I returned it to the library. I feel that is a novel that will reward a reread to appreciate its depths. The design of the UK hardback is impressive with a dust jacket cover in stark black and white, complimented with striking black & white patterned inside covers. A beautiful edition for book lovers.
Benjamin Wood's Page on 'The Bellwether Revivals' - the only extras are images from the various editions and link to its many positive reviews.