The Bells is a novel that is larger than life – starting with a bell so large and loud that people who heard it were forever changed. A young boy lived with his mother who could neither hear nor speak. They lived mainly in the bell tower and she rang the bell morning, noon and night. For some reason the boy was unaffected by the bell – except for one thing. He had an acute sense of hearing. One day the man who turned out to be his father found out that the boy could speak. The boy could ruin him with what he knew so he took him out of the village and threw him in the river. The boy’s father didn’t know that two men (monks) witnessed the incident. When the man left the scene one of the monks quickly saved the boy. They took him back to the abbey with them where it was eventually discovered that he could also sing. That discovery brought life-changing consequences.
The novel moves from a mountain village to an abbey to Vienna’s finest concert hall. I don’t want to reveal any more of the plot because it is such a fascinating story and really should be discovered through reading it yourself.
The Bells is written in three acts – much like a work of music. As I read I couldn’t help thinking this novel would make a wonderful opera. It has heart-breaking drama, humor, and moments that made me want to cheer out loud. Harvell reveals to the reader various aspects of certain musicians in the 1700s. There are historical characters (the composer Gluck, for one) that figure into the story. The author’s note at the end of the book points out more facts and the research behind the book.
If you’re looking for a unique novel I would say read The Bells. I’m glad I did.
You can hear more about the novel here. Diane Rehm interviewed the author in Sept. 2010.