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The Power of Music
The Bells is less about opera than about the power of music, the melodrama of being an outcast and a victim of thwarted young love. This is a book about a boy nearly overpowered by his senses and emotions. For him, sound is a physical sensation.
Teens, both artistic and not, may identify with the extremes of emotion and passion, with the joy of making music. Historical fiction readers will appreciate a time period and milieu they may not have encountered before.
I am not usually one for book trailers or author youtube clips, but I enjoyed this one. The images and the music are beautiful, and it provides a peek into the author’s inspirations–the landscape of Switzerland and the story of Orpheus.
Adult/High School–Some books are described as cinematic because they feature narrative, structure, and descriptive imagery that create a visual reading experience. The Bells is operatic–a melodrama that reverberates with extreme emotions in unlikely circumstances and, like the best opera, is an irresistible indulgence in passion, love, loss, betrayal, secrets, and tragedy set to music. And it is music that permeates this tale of the life of Moses Forben, whose 18th-century world is composed of sound, each object vibrating with a melody only he can hear and that he is able to communicate through his remarkable singing voice. His voice, however, is the blessing and the curse that determines his fate. It saves his life but it costs him normalcy and his hopes and dreams for love when he is castrated by the obsessed director of his boy’s choir. It enchants the young woman who becomes the love of his life but it prevents him from ever fully loving her. It is to her son that he tells his story, explaining how he became the boy’s caretaker and a renowned opera star. Because most of the tale is about Moses’s youth and his quest for identity, purpose, and the relentless pursuit of doomed love, it has natural appeal for teens. A superbly crafted and engaging novel that echoes the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, The Bells will particularly captivate teens who appreciate music, drama, and historical love stories.–John Sexton, Westchester Library System, NY
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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