Customer Review

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant tour de force!, October 2, 2010
This review is from: The Bells: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I happen to love classical music and opera in particular. I am not a musicologist by any stretch, but I have a deep appreciation for how great music makes me FEEL, how it speaks to my heart and reaches the soul. And THAT is what I love most about The Bells: A Novel ~ a splendid visceral novel that gives voice to sound, to vibration, to resonance, to tone... and puts into words how the beauty of pure sound is felt in the heart of the beholder.

Richard Harvell accomplishes this astonishing feat by juxtaposing in three acts the story of Moses Froben ~ the man who was made into an angel, "Lo Svizzero... who could bring an audience to tears with his voice" ~ with the great opera in three acts by Christoph Willibald von Gluck: ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE. ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE is not only one of my favorite operas, and one reason why I am so fond of this novel, but the Greek mythology upon which the opera is based is brilliantly applied to the plotting of The Bells: A Novel.

As always when I review, I'd rather not not give a plot summary away but leave it to the reader's own discovery to fall under the spell of great storytelling. To succumb to this novel's charm occurs easily because the well researched background provides all of the vitality necessary for the story to be taken seriously. Its sounds are real. Its settings are real. Some of its characters are real. The history is real. For this reader, the willing suspension of disbelief was easily come by for total engagement in this very original and most enchanting novel.

The original version of the opera ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE, with libretto in Italian by Raniero da Calzabigi, was premiered in Vienna in 1762. It was conducted by the composer Gluck and the lead role of Orpheus was sung by the castrato Gaetano Guadagni. That much, as represented in The Bells: A Novel, is true, so it is not at all difficult to place the character Moses in that same operatic world of the mid-1700s.

Moses's story from his humble birth in the Swiss Alps to his renowned success on the greatest of stages is so many things: love, beauty, innocence, art, tragedy, drama, dilemma, hatred, loyalty, bravery, fear. His is an epic of emotional truths. Moses is a hero who opens a window into the human spirit. He does it with sound, with his breath, with his voice.

"God is beautiful. He's perfect. And he inspires us to be beautiful and perfect, too. We're not, of course. And that's exactly why we need beauty in our lives: to remind us how good we could be. That's why we chant. That's why Moses sings...For if we know perfect beauty, with our eyes, with our ears, even for a second, we'll come that tiny bit closer to being it ourselves."

The main thrust of the storyline in The Bells: A Novel is parallel to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The myth becomes the story of the hero Moses and his heroine Amalia. It is very touching and poignant. Another reviewer thought it too melodramatic and over-the-top but I feel, as one who actually loves the melodrama of opera, that this technique, as it does in opera, enables us to experience the emotion, to really get inside the human experience which is being showcased.

I loved this brilliant tour de force and I devoured it with relish. I really hated to put it down. It's been a long time since I was as hooked on cliff-hangers as I was between chapters in The Bells: A Novel. I adore opera (ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE in particular) and opera and voice play a huge role in the telling of this story. But the reader need not be an opera aficionado or a classical music buff to appreciate this great novel. If you love to read a well-told historical fiction, poetic in language and sensitive in manner, in which unforgettable characters appear in authentic settings, in which the action excites and intrigues, thenThe Bells: A Novel is for you.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 

Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 28 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 3, 2010 8:25:24 AM PDT
Evalina,
This is a breathtakingly beautiful rendering of both a book, as well as your 'musical' reaction to it. I do understand exactly how you feel -- I simply cannot hear Puccini too often. Each time, his arias bring tears to my eyes and aches to my heart.
A splendid review!
M.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2010 11:04:36 AM PDT
Marilyn dear, do you know that I thought of you several times while reading THE BELLS? What a coincidence that you would be the first to comment on my review. I know you love music as much as I and I thought that this book would really resonate with you. I intended to recommend it to you if you hadn't read it. Have you?

Oh, I'm with you on Puccini, especially when sung by Callas (although she preferred Verdi).

Thanks again for your sweet comments. You know how to lift my spirits, my friend!
Evalina

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2010 9:26:07 AM PDT
Hi Evalina,
I almost took this, but I read like a snail. It does look very interesting. It's funny -- you think of me when reading about music, and I think of you when eating apples & drinking lots of water. [I am smiling!] I love Callas although currently just listening to Fleming brings on tears. I love an aria [Meditation] from Thais.
Nice visiting with you.
I'm reading 'Wake of Forgiveness' and parts of it are gorgeous.
Marilyn

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2010 6:37:14 AM PDT
Jill Meyer says:
Marilyn, when I first heard about this book over at Good Reads and then came here to look it up, I immediately thought of you! I was going to send you an email about it but it looks like you already know about it. It does sound good and I will probably buy it since it doesn't seem to be available on any Vine list I have...

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2010 9:17:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 5, 2010 9:18:28 AM PDT
Hi Jill,
Thanks for thinking of me! Yes, I saw this book and wondered if it would take me forever to clear my 'queue.' You know how slowly I read. I'm not complaining because when I'm really 'into' a book, I'm so 'there.' At the moment, I am recovering from my horseback riding race via Wake of Forgiveness. I'm speaking, not only as a New Yawker, but one with a 'twang.'
Well, everytime I see Sara P's book together with Furst's new one, I think of you. Are you planning on reading 'Obama's Wars?'
Again, thanks for thinking of me.
Doesn't Evalina resemble Monroe??
Marilyn

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2010 9:41:08 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 8, 2010 8:11:21 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2010 8:51:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 6, 2010 9:25:18 AM PDT
Oh Evalina,
I know that this is MM!! I think that I saw every movie she made -- when I was a child, of course.
I loved her singing in 'Some Like It Hot.'
[Evalina, I have a wicked sense of humor. Kind person, but I am funny!]
Your girlfriend in NY.
Marilyn
['Pear Shaped or Square Shaped, These Rocks Won't Lose Their Shape, Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend.'
Evalina, a very favorite Puccini aria is on the radio right this minute! You bring me good luck!! You should hear this aria!]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2010 9:53:40 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 8, 2010 8:11:46 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2010 11:37:34 AM PDT
Jill Meyer says:
Marilyn was so beautiful. I was 12 years old when she died. I was at summer camp in Maine when I heard about her death. Cried for a while. As I did when I heard about Cary Grant.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2010 11:38:42 AM PDT
Jill Meyer says:
No, probably not. Just don't have time for it. I read very little about Obama and the Dems; I love reading about naughty Republicans!
‹ Previous 1 2 3 Next ›

Review Details

Item

4.2 out of 5 stars (97 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (49)
4 star:
 (30)
3 star:
 (14)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
$24.00
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Reviewer

Evie Getchell
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   

Location: Bradenton, Florida

Top Reviewer Ranking: 223