Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett

Bel Canto
Good morning!

I had hoped to post this earlier today, but grad school got the best of me last night and then Kevin and I watched 12 Years a Slave. Not exactly the type of movie you can brush off and write a blog after watching. We've actually watched both Gravity and the Best Picture award winner in the last couple of weeks. I can definitely say that both deserved the awards they won. 

Ok, I am completely off topic, I realize. It happens.

Back in January, you may remember, I included a link in the monthly wrap up that mentioned this book. Half Price Books compiled a list of 100 Books You Can't Put Down

Bel Canto appeared on that list and sparked my interest. Since then, it's been popping up all over for me, only validating my choice to read it. 

The story takes place in an unnamed South American country. A birthday party is being thrown for a prominent Japanese businessman at the vice president's home. The government has spared no expense, hoping that the businessman, Mr. Hosokawa, will build a factory in their country. Knowing Mr. Hosokawa adores opera, a famous American soprano, Roxane Coss, has also been brought in to sing for the party. 

We enter the story just as Coss is finishing her final aria. As the audience remains enraptured, the lights suddenly extinguish and the party is taken hostage. Terrorists enter, seeking the president, who bowed out of the party at the last moment, presumably to watch his favorite soap opera. When they do not find who they are looking for, they are flummoxed and continue to hold the entire party hostage, unsure of how to proceed.

And, so, begins an ordeal which lasts months. The scenario Patchett paints seems simultaneously fantastic and utterly normal. As the story progresses, her character development blossoms and we see the complexity of relationships formed in a contained environment. Love and friendship appear in the most unexpected places. All the while, you know it has to end. The hostage scenario is not a sustainable one.

Patchett offers a good balance of action and character exploration. Rarely do those two qualities meet so well in modern literature.  I enjoyed the book a lot. Not sure that I would rank it as a "book I couldn't put down," but it was definitely very good and worth reading. Bringing in the aspect of opera and the power of music brought an element to which I definitely connected. 

This book takes a little more commitment than a typical thriller. The depth requires a reader who wants to be lost in the story, an easy task with Patchett's writing. If you like character driven story, this book is a good choice for you. 

Pages: 352
Date Completed: March 1, 2014


  1. Nice review -- I wanted to read this one but after hating two other of her books, I think I should pass. But now I'm tempted again!

  2. I haven't read anything else by her, so I can't speak for anything. I think this is her most popular work - maybe for good reason?

  3. Bel Canto was the first Ann Patchett book I read, but I listened to it on audio. It was so amazing that I've listened to all her other books on audio, too. Each is quite different from the others, but I've liked them all, but The Patron Saint of Liars was my least favorite.