Press Release: The Bells by Richard Harvell
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sarah Breivogel, Publicity Manager
A remarkable debut, THE BELLS is the confession of a thief, kidnapper, and unlikely lover—a boy with the voice of an angel, whose exquisite sense of hearing becomes both his life’s tragic curse and its greatest blessing.
“Harvell has fashioned an engrossing first novel ringing with sounds; a musical and literary treat.” —Booklist
“A poignant and acutely told story of the human spirit; highly recommended.” —Library Journal
“When I look at my copy of The Bells sitting in front of me, I cannot believe it lies there immobile and lifeless. The sounds and music within its pages should make the book throb and vibrate across the table. During the time I spent entranced with this story, my body ran like the bells within its pages. Harvell’s magical prose gives sound to Moses’ life.”
—Historical Novels Review
“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, New York Times bestselling author of Sacred Hearts
“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 grew up as the son of a man who could not possibly have been my father.” This enigma sets the stage for THE BELLS (Crown Publishers, On sale September 14), Richard Harvell’s dazzling debut novel. Sold in eleven territories worldwide, THE BELLS is already becoming an international sensation.
This is the story of Moses Froben—Lo Svizzero—the most celebrated musico in eighteenth- century Europe. Born in a belfry high in the Swiss Alps, Moses is the son of a deaf-mute woman banished to the church tower to ring each day the Loudest and Most Beautiful Bells in the land. Though the sound of the bells is loud enough to burst the eardrums of anyone within fifty paces, Moses has been accustomed to the peals since birth and has developed an exquisite sense of hearing. When the church’s priest, Karl Victor Vonderach, discovers Moses’ gift, he casts the boy out into the world. Having believed Moses was deaf, Karl Victor is terrified to learn the opposite is true, realizing Moses could expose his darkest secret: that he fathered this bastard child.
Rescued by two monks, Remus and Nicolai, Moses finds refuge in the choir of the Abbey of St. Gall. He becomes the star singer, only to then endure the horrifying act of castration to prevent the boy’s voice from deepening when he reaches puberty. Moses, as a castrato, is able to sing with an extraordinarily flexible range. Moses leads the choir by day and performs for a wealthy
family in the evenings. Here he befriends Amalia, the daughter of the dying woman for whom he’s been commissioned to sing. Their friendship blossoms, but he must hide his shameful secret from her—yet he is haunted by what might have been.
Years later, Amalia returns to him, a grown, beautiful young woman, and they engage in a forbidden affair that ends with Amalia married to an Austrian royal and Moses striving to prove to her—and himself—that he is worthy of her love. THE BELLS, written in the form of a letter
from Moses to his son, Nicolai, reveals the astonishing secrets of his extraordinary life, and it answers the question that has shadowed his fame: How did Moses Froben, the world-famous musico, come to raise a son who by all rights he could never have sired?
Harvell was inspired to write THE BELLS upon hearing his wife, a music teacher, practice an aria from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice for her music training. Moved by the music, it struck him that no one hears the aria anymore as Gluck intended it: with Orpheus sung by a castrato. He began writing THE BELLS that same evening. Delving deeply into history, he learned that no castrato ever wrote his own biography. Over the course of writing the novel, Harvell visited every location that appears in the book—from the attic room in the Abbey of St. Gall, where Moses would have slept, to what would have been Remus’s and Nicolai’s quarters in Spittelberg.
THE BELLS is an epic and enchanting story, and this richly imagined novel showcases Harvell’s incredible talent for storytelling and for creating an utterly authentic sense of time and place.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
RICHARD HARVELL was born in New Hampshire and studied English literature at Dartmouth College. He now lives in Basel, Switzerland, with his wife and children. This is his first novel.
Photo Credit: Domenico Sposato