A surprisingly believable and compelling tale written from the unusual perspective of the bastard son of an 18th century, deaf bell ringer in the Swiss alps. The boy has a preternatural gift for hearing and a remarkable singing voice. The reality of life in those times and within the realm of the church was not always as beautiful as the sounds generated by it. This book manages to be a magical aural experience in which the boy struggles against unthinkable hardships to create beauty around him. — Heather Bellanca
October 2010 Indie Next List
“Young Moses Froben sings like an angel and possesses an otherworldly sense of hearing. These gifts carry him through a life rich in opportunity, while burdening him with unimaginable pain. Set in the Swiss Alps and Vienna in the mid-18th century, Harvell's first novel is a feat of storytelling and rich, descriptive writing. Most striking is his ability to describe sounds and music--an achievement that brings the story and characters to vibrant life in a unique way.”
— Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
Written as a confessional letter to his son, an 18th century opera singer recounts how his gift for sound led him on an astonishing journey to Europe’s celebrated opera houses and reveals how he came to raise a son who by all rights he never could have sired.
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, 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, 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, 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.
Like the voice of Lo Svizzero, The Bells is a sublime debut novel that rings with passion, courage, and beauty.
About the Author
RICHARD HARVELL was born in New Hampshire and studied English literature at Dartmouth College. He lives in Basel, Switzerland, with his wife and children. This is his first novel.
Indie Next List, October 2010
"THE BELLS does for the ears what Perfume did for the nose. A novel to engage the senses as well as tickle the mind." —Sarah Dunant, international bestselling author of Sacred Hearts
"Harvell has written an entertaining and eye-opening aria of a book." —Washington Post
"Richard Harvell's first novel is a marvel of sound woven through the tale of an extraordinary life." —Fredericksburg Freelance Star
"When I look at my copy of The Bells sitting in front of me, I cannot believe it lies there immobile and lifeless...During the time I spent entranced with this story, my body rang like the bells within its pages...Harvell’s magical prose gives sound to Moses’ life: the bells, the arias, and the uneven breath of true love." —Historical Novels Review
"Harvell has fashioned an engrossing first novel ringing with sounds; a musical and literary treat." —Booklist
"Harvell's debut is saturated with sound...A poignant and acutely told storey of the human spirit." —Library Journal
“Astonishing in its originality, epic in its scope, luminous in its richness, The Bells is a novel to be savored page by glorious page.” —Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Day the Falls Stood Still “I was mesmerized from first page to the last by this haunting and seductive novel. Long after I finished, the characters and their heartbreaking tale of love, loss, and obsession resonated with me still. Readers, here is a book you’ll find impossible to resist. Bravo andencore!” —M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of The Reincarnationist