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Bel Canto Paperback – Jul 28 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 28 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060838728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060838720
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (425 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #18,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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3.7 out of 5 stars
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By GeekSquadofOne on June 3 2009
Format: Paperback
Bel Canto

I highly recommend this book, it is very interesting.

When I started reading this book I thought it was going to be a boring "hostege changes the life of their captor" book which follows the same generic plot line shown in a million other novels published. Lets just say I was wrong and I finished it in a day because I could not put it down.

I have not read any of Ms. Patchett's novels before this one so I don't have anything to compare it to, but this is a must read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amy on July 26 2008
Format: Paperback
Many people had recommended this book to me, and eventually my book club chose it as our monthly selection. While I feel this novel is worth reading, it is by no means an easy read. The setting is the confines of a Vice President's home in a South American country, in which a group of inept and somewhat sympathetic terrorists take a group of international dignitaries and an opera diva hostage.

The narrative point of view shifts between several characters, never really allowing for full character development. The constant shifting between characters creates a choppy and clumsy writing style that is, at times, difficult to read. In addition, the plot takes an eternity to unfold, while the reader is repeatedly and redundantly shown how desirable and how beautiful the opera diva, Roxane Coss, is to the others. Annoyingly, the author also assumes that everyone, characters and readers alike, are enchanted by and enamoured with opera, and subsequently the opera singer and her vocal practices take centre stage over the issues of social justice the terrorists are trying to call attention to.

The last chapters of the novel generate the most narrative tension and excitement as the hostages and terrorists finally establish meaningful relationships with each other. The most striking contrast is between the privileged lives of the dignitaries and the opera star, who even in their confinement maintain this status, alongside the poverty and illiteracy of the terrorists, who really end up as the most interesting and sympathetic characters in the novel. The conclusion of the novel seems quite unfair, unjust, and unneccessary in light of other possibilities. [Amy MacDougall]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 27 2003
Format: Paperback
When I reached page 50 of Bel Canto, I told myself that this book wasn't going to be worth the time it would take to finish. It was boring, improbable--not in the good opera way; in the bad soap opera way--the characters were thin and uninteresting, and the storytelling was totally uninspiring. So I thought about putting it down. But, like so many people, I'm afraid, the reviews got the best of me. I'd heard such good things about this book, I thought I had to give it a chance. So over the next long, agonizing week, I finished the whole thing. For my efforts, I was rewarded with 250 pages of the same tedious junk and an ending so...I'm sorry, it's the only word...STUPID that you just won't believe it. You'll close the book and say...huh? You'll wonder what the hell was that all about. And you'll kick yourself for not stopping back at page 50.
I don't know who writes these good reviews, but come on, people! This book is a complete stinker. Go ahead, if you don't believe me. Read it and see.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 3 2010
Format: Paperback
The Peruvian government is hosting a party for Japanese business man Mr. Hosokawa. In honour of his birthday, and in an attempt to encourage him to open a factory in their country, they have hired opera singer Roxanne Coss to perform at the party. Unknown to them, terrorists plan to invade the party and take the President hostage. These plans are thwarted when they find that the President is not in attendence and in his place they take all the party attendees as hostages.

I listened to this as an audiobook that I downloaded from my library. It was read by Anna Fields and produced by Blackstone Audio. When I first listened to an excerpt I was a bit put off by the thick, almost too thick accent, of the reader and I remember rolling my eyes and thinking "oh no, not another overly fake accent". I decided to download anyway and give it a try. I'm glad I did as I later found that the guests at the party were from many countries and they spoke a number of languages which the reader aptly portrayed.

While Mr. Hosokawa and Roxanne Coss and their budding romance were the main focus of the story, it was to Gen, Mr. Hosokawa's translator, that the greatest role fell. Without him, everything would have fallen apart due to mis-understandings and mis-communications. It seemed to me that he was the 'sounding board' between the terrorists, the hostages, and the outside world. Most of the time he provided simultaneous translations, but at other times, he would wait before carrying messages between parties. Time for reflection or just for Gen to hold onto some control?

The character of Messner, the Red Cross representative, played the important roll of keeping the story grounded.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laura Fabiani TOP 500 REVIEWER on Feb. 26 2010
Format: Paperback
Surreal. That's the word that comes to mind when I think of this book. Initially, when I began reading it, I was simultaneously annoyed and fascinated. Is that possible? After much thought I realized why this was so. But first let me tell you the premise of this book, which attracted me like a bee to a flower.

A lavish birthday party is being given in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman whose only reason for attending is Roxane Coss, opera's most revered soprano. She mesmerizes the crowd of about 200 guests at the home of the vice-president of a South American country that remains unnamed throughout the novel. But then a band of terrorists invades the home and takes the entire party hostage. As negotiations fire back and forth between the terrorists and the government through the Red Cross, weeks turn into months and unexpected bonds form between the hostages and the terrorists within the walls of the home.

Written in the third person omniscient narrative, I was frustrated when the actions and reactions of the hostages or terrorists were described collectively as all having the exact same emotional and physical reactions to a particular situation, which of course is impossible. However, as I kept reading I realized this added a subtle comic element to the story. The New Yorker called this a tragicomic novel and I concur. The author skillfully used the riveting elements of opera music and the beauty of multiple languages to engage the reader's own emotions. If you are an opera aficionado, you will appreciate this novel. Actually, the way it is written resembles an opera piece itself, ending tragically as expected.
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