Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

Cover ImageFinished 4-14-11, rating 4/5, fiction, 318 pages, pub. 2001

There were worse reasons to keep a person hostage.  You keep someone always for what he or she is worth to you, for what you can trade her for, money or freedom or somebody else you want more.  Any person can be a kind of trading chip when you find a way to hold her.  So to hold someone for song, because the thing longed for was the sound of her voice, wasn’t it all the same?  The terrorists, having no chance to get what they came for, decided to take something else instead, something that they never in their lives knew they wanted until they crouched in the low, dark shaft of the air-conditioning vents: opera.  They decided to take that very thing for which Mr. Hosokawa lived.

Chapter 3

Terrorists of an unnamed South American country invade a party held at the home of the vice-president so they can kidnap the president.  Only the president did not attend and the terrorists are left with a house full of hostages and no way out.  There were too many hostages so they let all of the women go, save one, the world renown soprano Roxane Coss.  Now they are left with 59 men and one women and little chance of success.  When the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months, the line between hostage and terrorist is blurred.

All of the men, terrorists included, fall in love with Roxane and her golden voice.  She sings every day for the house.  Mr. Hosokawa feels responsible since the party was held in his honor and he requested Roxane even though they had never met.  Since this house is full of important men, from all over the world, it is Mr. Hosokawa’s translator, Gen, who becomes the most important person in the house.  He spends his days having conversations for people and becomes indispensable to the terrorists as they negotiate with the Red Cross.

There are lots of characters in the house and it was confusing at first.  Actually I tried to listen to the audio, but then switched to paper and had better luck keeping everyone straight.  Each character had an important role in the house, but that didn’t mean I really cared about the characters, at least at first.  It is a slow read until the last third.  They were held hostage for so long with nothing happening except the forming of relationships that it took me a while to really get engaged in the story.  I was actually ready for it to be over and them, wham, the end comes and it was poignant, shocking in its speed and left me considering, even the day after.  I loved it.  For me, the ending saved the book from an average rating. 

I don’t want to give the impression that the first two-third of the book was completely boring, it wasn’t, bit it made me take my time and sometimes I got impatient.  The opera played a  huge part in the story.  It was used to inspire, to heal, and to comfort and I think music lovers will appreciate the story.

This is from my personal library chosen by Golda and Heather.  Here’s what Heather had to say…”I’m reading this right now, and it ’s great so far.”

30 thoughts on “Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

  1. Kay says:

    Like Jill above, I also read this a whole ago (Aug of 2003), but I still remembered quite a bit about it. I love Ann Patchett’s writing.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      There area few others who haven’t read it. You are never the only one. Too many good books to read them all 🙂

  2. Staci says:

    I’ve read so many different thoughts on this one and now I’m really intrigued about the last part of the book and how it changed it up from being an average read to the 4 stars you gave it! I’ve had the opportunity to pick it up for 50 cents at library sales…next time I see one I’m getting it!

  3. Thoughts of Joy says:

    I started listening to this one and wasn’t necessarily bored, but needed something more at the time, so I set it aside. I have always had the intention of getting back to it because I knew from others that it took awhile before it blossomed. You apparently had the same experience. I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Heather says:

    I absolutely loved this novel so I’m sad to hear you didn’t feel as strongly as I did. Although I’m glad to hear you appreciated the ending so much – I too thought it was absolutely perfect.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      Thank you for receommending it, Heather. To be honest, if it hadn’t been one of the books that you all chose for me to read I would have given up halfway through and missed a great book!

  5. JoAnn says:

    I have read all of Ann Patchett’s novels (and Truth and Beauty,too). This seems to be the most ‘famous’, but it is my least favorite.

  6. Caspette says:

    I am afraid I probably would have given up. I just gave up on two books. If it fails to grab me I wont read it. These days my reading time is too precious to waste on books that cant grab my interest in some way.

    I have heard a few people comment the same though that it was slow but the ending was a whammy one.

    I thought this review was a well balanced one, but I honestly will probably pass!

    • stacybuckeye says:

      Yes, I may have given up but this is one that my readers voted for so I made it through and in this case I am glad I did!

  7. Trish says:

    I must forget how slow books are when I recommend them to others. I loved this one but when my sister read it she thought it was unbearably boring. I think it must have just been the ending that stuck with me! Same thing happened recently with Remains of the Day–have you read that one? Beautiful book but a little boring throughout until…wham!

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I’ve heard good things about Remains of the Day so thanks for the warning that it may be slow. Your reading attention span will probably change a bit once your baby arrives. You need a little more excitement to keep you going 🙂

  8. Stephanie D. says:

    This has been on my TBR list for ever because of all the acclaim but somehow, I’ve never been compelled to read it. Now I have to wonder if reaching that amazing ending is enough of an impetus to start.

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