Bel Canto

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Title: Bel Canto
Author: Ann Patchett
Genre: Historical Fiction
Content Warning: Scattered strong language and sexuality

Blurb

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening-until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots. Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music is the only common language. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped. Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto engenders in the reader the very passion for art and the language of music that its characters discover. As a reader, you find yourself fervently wanting this captivity to continue forever, even though you know that real life waits on the other side of the garden wall. A virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers, Bel Canto is a novel to be cherished.

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My Thoughts

Ann Patchett is a genius.

You’d think a book about a hostage situation would have lots of action and a fast-paced plot, but Bel Canto takes its time. The lyrical prose draws you in, the characters—all of them—force you to fall in love with them, and the crock pot plot leaves you questioning everything you expected when you first opened the book.

I haven’t read anything else by Ann Patchett, and to be perfectly honest, I only read this one because it fit a book challenge category and my aunt had given it a 5-star rating on Goodreads. But I’m sold. I’ll definitely be reading more Patchett in the future.

Score: (4 / 5)

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2 Comments

    1. I was also very impressed by Bel Canto when I read it years ago. I’ve never read anything like it before or since. I agree about the pacing, the lyrical prose, and the way the author turns readers’ expectations on their heads. But I really didn’t like the very end. I don’t mean when the military finally breaks through and shuts everything down. That was inevitable and yet still shocking because we were lulled into spending time in a magical bubble and we came to know and love characters who were, of course, complex and good in ways we didn’t imagine. I mean the very last page or two when we discover that two people got married even though they seemed to have nothing in common except surviving the tragedy together. Maybe that was enough for them, but it felt forced to me. I can’t say more because of spoilers. What do you think about the ending, Jess? Email or PM me to discuss it? Thanks!

      1. I agree that the marriage at the end is rather unbelievable. I thought it was really odd, but I loved the rest of the book! 🙂

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