Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Bells-Richard Harvell

The Bells
Richard Harvell
Broadway, Jun 28 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307590534

In the Uri Valley in the Swiss Alps, Moses Froben was born in the belfry of a church. His deaf mom Adelheid rang the three loud bells that she could not hear. He was raised in that belfry with love and learned to listen to people by the sounds they make. The heartbeat of his mute mom would rise when she was excited. Moses listens while he wandered the village but all thought he was as crazy, deaf and mute as his mom. When Moses saves a life but reveals he can hear, Father Karl Victor assaults him and tosses the child into the River Russ.

Monks Nicolai and Remus rescue Moses and take him to the Abbey of St. Gaul. The choirmaster Ulrich realizes the lad has extraordinary talents and nurtures the voice by castrating the lad. The castrato meets heiress Amalia Duft. They fall in love, but though she remains his life inspiration, they have little hope of being together. His two monk friends enable Moses to become the toast of Vienna and the rest of Europe as a musico soprano Lo Suizzero.

This is an engaging historical “biographical” fiction as told by Moses’ “son” that life in late eighteenth century is a cruel place for the less fortunate. Though much darker the first act of the Bells reminds me of the modern day Oliver Twist movie August Rush; while the other two acts remain grim yet inspirational as Moses’ magically makes music. Although at times especially in act one the story line seems an overly emoting melodrama, readers will ring accolades to Richard Harvell who captures the tone of the good, the bad and the ugly of Europe.

Harriet Klausner

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