The Bells

The Bells

A Novel

Book - 2010
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I grew up as the son of a man who could not possibly have been my father. Though there was never any doubt that my seed had come from another man, Moses Froben, Lo Svizzero , called me "son." And I called him "father." On the rare occasions when someone dared to ask for clarification, he simply laughed as though the questioner were obtuse. "Of course he's not my son!" he would say. "Don't be ridiculous." 

But whenever I myself gained the courage to ask him further of our past, he just looked sadly at me. "Please, Nicolai," he would say after a moment, as though we had made a pact I had forgotten. With time, I came to understand I would never know the secrets of my birth, for my father was the only one who knew these secrets, and he would take them to his grave.
 
The celebrated opera singer Lo Svizzero was born in a belfry high in the Swiss Alps where his mother served as the keeper of the loudest and most beautiful bells in the land. Shaped by the bells' glorious music, as a boy he possessed an extraordinary gift for sound. But when his preternatural hearing was discovered--along with its power to expose the sins of the church--young Moses Froben was cast out of his village with only his ears to guide him in a world fraught with danger.
 
Rescued from certain death by two traveling monks, he finds refuge at the vast and powerful Abbey of St. Gall. There, his ears lead him through the ancient stone hallways and past the monks' cells into the choir, where he aches to join the singers in their strange and enchanting song. Suddenly Moses knows his true gift, his purpose. Like his mother's bells, he rings with sound and soon, he becomes the protégé of the Abbey's brilliant yet repulsive choirmaster, Ulrich.
 
But it is this gift that will cause Moses' greatest misfortune: determined to preserve his brilliant pupil's voice, Ulrich has Moses castrated. Now a young man, he will forever sing with the exquisite voice of an angel--a musico --yet castration is an abomination in the Swiss Confederation, and so he must hide his shameful condition from his friends and even from the girl he has come to love. When his saviors are exiled and his beloved leaves St. Gall for an arranged marriage in Vienna, he decides he can deny the truth no longer and he follows her--to sumptuous Vienna, to the former monks who saved his life, to an apprenticeship at one of Europe's greatest theaters, and to the premiere of one of history's most beloved operas.
 
In this confessional letter to his son, Moses recounts how his gift for sound led him on an astonishing journey to Europe's celebrated opera houses and reveals the secret that has long shadowed his fame: How did Moses Froben, world renowned musico , come to raise a son who by all rights he never could have sired?
 
Like the voice of Lo Svizzero , The Bells is a sublime debut novel that rings with passion, courage, and beauty.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2010.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780307590527
0307590526
Characteristics: viii, 374 p. ; 25 cm.

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bigfeet
Dec 16, 2016

A gothic piece of historical fiction that deals with "Musicos" or those who are castrated for the sake of the voice. There were parts of this book that were uncomfortable to read but overall it was a very good story about love, loyalty and the influence of music.

Rachiecakes Oct 08, 2014

I am an extremely picky reader who has never been able to re-read even a book I enjoyed reading.

As soon as I read the last line in "The Bells", I immediately turned back to page 1 and started reading it again!

I cannot pinpoint why this book affected me so much -- but I suspect that it is due to the depth and richness of Harvell's characters -- especially Moses. His childhood is a tragic one, that almost makes the reading of it unbearable -- but you will not be able to stop turning the pages to see how life unfolds for his unfortunate soul. The description of sounds in this book is quite remarkable-- and made me care, all of a sudden, quite deeply about 18th century Vienna, and about what life would be like as a "musico". Really, the setting could have been anywhere because the writing was so good. Can't recommend it enough.

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FVReader
Jun 24, 2012

I truly enjoyed this story of love, loyalty, being true and steadfast. The author focussed completely on the texture of sound, how sound reverberates through life, life, friendship. Sound is a symbol of Life, felt at it's deepest and most pure.
I really liked how "bells" played such a large role in this book and portrayed truth, solidity, joy, pain and, most of all, love.

r
racquetannie
Feb 04, 2012

a must read -be aware it is a delicate subject!

l
linder55
Apr 07, 2011

This book was an aria by itself. I found myself thinking about the way sound affects so much of my experiences. A wonderful book, but be warned- I was nearly unable to do anything but read for three days, because I needed to find out what happened next!

n
NanaPat
Mar 27, 2011

Richard Harvell's first novel is an aria unto itself. His colourization is perfect and the characters and the story of their lives will stay with me for a vey long time. I hope Harvell completes another masterpiece soon.

b
becker
Oct 19, 2010

This well written story follows the tragic life of a young boy who is castrated in order to preserve his incredible singing voice. The writing is vivid and the story is interesting. The story begins with the creation of a set of magnificent bells for a church, but as the story progresses, the bells become symbolic of several different aspects in the story.

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NanaPat
Mar 27, 2011

NanaPat thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

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NanaPat
Mar 27, 2011

In this heartbeaking and captivating account of his extraordinary life , Moses tells how his gift for sound led him on an astonishing journey- from a tiny village in the Alps to an apprenticeship at one of Europe's greatest theatres , and to the premiere of one of history's most beloved operas-and tells the secret that has long shadowed his fame : How did Moses Froben , world-renowned musico , come to raise a son who by all rights he could never have sired ?

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NanaPat
Mar 27, 2011

musico Guadagni's sad comment :
" I often ask myself " he said, " as I take my bows, how many boys have I castrated with my voice tonight ?"

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