Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Bells

Richard Harvell
Crown Publishers
Random House
September 14, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-307-59052-7
384 pages

Eunuchs have always had an unusual place in world history whether protecting the women, religious
devotion, gender identities, or in music, the male sopranos supposedly were able to create a marvelous
unique vocal tone. By not allowing their voice to mature, their sound can permanently be preserved if
the boy is not allowed to mature. The Bells in the story of an orphaned child who had unusual musical
talent and was castrated to preserve his voice as a child.

Moses Froben remembers his childhood living in the belfry in a church with his deaf mother who was
the bell ringer in a small Swiss village during the 1700s. For some bizarre reason, the tolls of the bells
did not damage the child’s hearing, but seemed to intensify his love of music and tones. Having
become a musico, Moses learns about parental love and married love through unexpected events and

Although fictional, the characters of the monks Nicolai and Remus are flawed but loving and always
wanting the best for Moses. Amalia Duft, the love of his life although much too wealthy for her family
to ever expect any relationship with Moses. The self-centered choir director who is jealous of Moses’
talent, the overprotective aunt clinging to Amalia so that she does not marry for love but for money and
power, the Abbotts who are not certain how to balance a gifted musician with the daily needs are all
challenges in the story.

The love of the music is what is most special about The Bells. To hear the choice of words from a true
musician helps all of us to better understand the world and the world of music. This is the connection
from one person’s heart to the listener’s souls. This explains to everyone the power and the addictive
love for all music. Used in this story to assist the understanding is the analogy of the opera Orpheus
and Eurydice which is also a parallel story line.

The Bells is Richard Harvell’s debut novel. The characters are delightful and realistic. The story is
enthralling, even though somewhat predictable. The events are realistic and nothing seems to ever
occur without some problem or situation for the characters to solve. Mr. Harvell was born in New
Hampshire, educated at Darmouth College, and now lives in Switzerland with his family.

If you have ever wondered about those who love music, read The Bells to discover the world of the heart and soul of music.

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