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In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.
Among the hostages are not only Hosokawa and Roxane Coss, the American soprano, but an assortment of Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Reuben Iglesias, the diminutive and gracious vice president, quickly gets sideways of the kidnappers, who have no interest in him whatsoever. Meanwhile, a Swiss Red Cross negotiator named Joachim Messner is roped into service while vacationing. He comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands, and the days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months.
With the omniscience of magic realism, Ann Patchett flits in and out of the hearts and psyches of hostage and terrorist alike, and in doing so reveals a profound, shared humanity. Her voice is suitably lyrical, melodic, full of warmth and compassion. Hearing opera sung live for the first time, a young priest reflects:
Never had he thought, never once, that such a woman existed, one who stood so close to God that God's own voice poured from her. How far she must have gone inside herself to call up that voice. It was as if the voice came from the center part of the earth and by the sheer effort and diligence of her will she had pulled it up through the dirt and rock and through the floorboards of the house, up into her feet, where it pulled through her, reaching, lifting, warmed by her, and then out of the white lily of her throat and straight to God in heaven.Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds. Time stands still, priorities rearrange themselves. Ultimately, of course, something has to give, even in a novel so imbued with the rich imaginative potential of magic realism. But in a fractious world, Bel Canto remains a gentle reminder of the transcendence of beauty and love. --Victoria Jenkins
Lucky Mr. Hosokawa. The well-connected Japanese businessman, now in an unnamed South American country on yet another job, is having a very special birthday party. At the home of the country's vice president, opera singer Roxane Cos will be performing for him and his guests. But what's this? Armed men invading the premises? These ragtag revolutionaries are looking for the president and disappointed that he is not there, but that doesn't stop them from holding the party goers hostage. What happens after that was, for this reviewer, a story that failed to ignite. Patchett (The Patron Saint of Liars) generates little tension as she moves her players around the board, and one is disappointed that there is little reflection about the head-on clash of art and life. This book is getting a big promotional pitch, however, so libraries may want to consider.
- Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I had been told what an amazing read this was but when I started it I didn't feel it was so amazing...however it grew on me. Read morePublished 5 months ago by kristin ellis
badly documented, slow, talks about opera butt not properly detailedPublished 7 months ago by Jacqueline Von rue
Twisted hiyjacking... you will not put this book down. Seller sent perfect book and the price was greatPublished 12 months ago by funkylama
I read this book when it was first released and was reminded recently what a wonderful story it was.I purchased this book for a friend that I know will enjoy it. Read morePublished on June 8 2013 by dreamer
This was a Christmas gift for my sister who loves Ann Patchett. She loved the look and feel of the book. Another wonderful read from the author.Published on Jan. 6 2013 by Valerie J Hamilton
I read this novel a few years back and still think about it from time to time; it is a spellbinding, other-wordly, beautiful novel. Read morePublished on July 3 2011 by Foxglove
Surprising to me this book got an award. The narrator has a luxuriant voice but with an underlying mocking tone that made the book annoying to listen to.Published on May 14 2011 by D. Green
People have always been fascinated with the effects of kidnapping (certainly more so since Patty Hearst's abduction and the much talked about Stockholm Syndrome). Read morePublished on May 9 2011 by Jeffrey Swystun