17.8.13

THE BELLS, by Richard Harvell

What a fabulous first novel! Famous singer Moses Froben recounts his life in a letter to his son, beginning atop a bell tower in a Swiss alpine village, his survival of a murder attempt, and his rescue by two itinerant monks. Taken to St. Gall where the abbot wants nothing to do with the waif, Moses is drawn to the cathedral during choir practice. The choir master sees the boy has extraordinary hearing and pitch; suddenly almost-mute Moses is a choir member, then a soloist and then, in a harrowing scene, a castrato. This horrible practice castrated young boys with beautiful voices so that they remained musicos: singing angels, or sopranos with the vocal power of full-grown men. Moses, not fully understanding what happened, but knowing he would be an outcast, conceals his condition for years, even from the woman who loves him and whom he loves but cannot claim. What follows is mesmerizing, heart-rending, gratifying, unbelievable and completely enthralling. It's a 5+. www.richardharvell.com