Friday, March 14, 2008

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

This review was originally posted on my blog in June 2006.

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 ever 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.

You know...the blurb on this one tells enough to make it sound interesting. The main characters in this novel are Roxanne Coss (the opera singer), Mister Hosakawa (the opera fan), Gen (his interpreter) and Carmen (one of the terrorists), however there are several other characters that take a turn in the spotlight.

Whilst the pace of this book is ponderous at times, the writing is beautiful, and you can feel the book moving to an inevitably crashing crescendo. The hostage situation has been ongoing for many months, and whilst for the people within the compound that life has settled into a pleasant routine with music and football as part of the life they have become accustomed to, as far as the world outside is concerned the situation cannot continue.

If there was one thing that I didn't like it was the Epilogue, which certainly tied up a couple of loose ends, but in a way that was almost against the flow of the relationships that happened throughout the rest of the book.

If you are looking for a book to meander through, then this could be one for you.

Rating 3.5/5

Updated to add:

Now that I have some distance on reading this book, I think the grade was right, but I probably would have written up the content a little differently (it's a little scary to see how your review style changes over a period of a couple of years), and yet I still remember it quite well. That does sound kind of contradictory I guess, but then again that probably sums up my feelings about this book. I have never really gone out of my way to pick up any other Ann Patchett books since reading this book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The ending was certainly against the flow of relationships, as you said. The last chapter too felt like a shock, but except for that, it was a very pleasant book to read.