- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial (Aug. 2 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060838728
- ISBN-13: 978-0060838720
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: 435 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Bel Canto Paperback – Aug 2 2005
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Opera and terrorism make strange bedfellows, yet in this novel they complement each other nicely. At a birthday party for Japanese industrialist Mr. Hosokawa somewhere in South America, famous American soprano Roxanne Coss is just finishing her recital in the Vice President's home when armed terrorists appear, intending to take the President hostage. However, he is not there, so instead they hold the international businesspeople and diplomats at the party, releasing all the women except Roxanne. Captors and their prisoners settle into a strange domesticity, with the opera diva captivating them all as she does her daily practicing. Soon romantic liaisons develop with the hopeless intensity found in many opera plots. Patchett (The Patron Saint of Liars) balances terrorism, love, and music nicely here. Anna Fields has a pleasant voice and reads clearly, although she doesn't differentiate among the characters especially well. The tape quality is excellent. Recommended for large public libraries. Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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.
The book takes place in an unnamed country in South America. A birthday party has been arranged for a prominent Japanese businessman named Mr. Hosokawa. The only reason that Mr. Hosokawa has agreed to come to this party in his honor is that Roxanne Coss, a world famous soprano, is there to sing for the assembled guests. Ms. Coss does sing brilliantly and all seems to be going well. Unfortunately, the party turns sour quickly when a band of revolutionaries breaks into the house and holds the guests hostage.
Patchett, in a display of literary virtuosity, brings the characters in "Bel Canto" to brilliant life. With wit, humor and pathos, the author shows how living in close quarters with strangers sometimes brings out the best in people. Mr. Hosokawa, who is usually a businesslike automaton, blossoms into a sensitive and caring individual under the influence of Roxanne and her lovely music. Gen Watanable, who is Hosokawa's translator and secretary, falls in love with one of the female revolutionaries, and his life also takes off in unexpected directions.
Patchett touches on many themes in "Bel Canto," such as the power of glorious music to touch our souls and the importance of seeking beauty and romance in our lives. Since the world we live in is sometimes a barbaric place, it is not always possible for peace and love to flourish. Therefore, Patchett seems to be saying, it is vital to seize those rare moments in our lives when we can enjoy everything that is wonderful and amazing around us.
"Bel Canto" is marred by a pace that is a bit too leisurely and by a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion. However, overall it is an entertaining novel that is notable not only for the author's development of character, but also for her imagination, originality and wonderful use of language.
Although this simple sentence appears near the end of Ann Patchett's beautiful and brilliant "Bel Canto", it aptly sums up the whole of this excellent story.
With the daunting task of setting the entire story in the sometimes-home of a South American Vice President, Patchett breathes wonderful life into a cast of characters put into unusual and tense surroundings. When the birthday celebration of a Japanese businessman becomes the hostile battleground for a group of renegade terrorists, the party's attendees become the unwilling cast which Patchett moves deftly through their paces. Although the claustrophobic setting of this story would seem off-putting, Patchett takes this chance to explore the endless possibilities of the human heart within the strict confines of its captive surroundings, giving her novel the illusion of breathtaking expansiveness and of being totally boundless.
This is one of those rare books which one is loathe to put down, yet reluctant to read quickly, for the pure joy of reading the poetically written emotions and perfectly worded sentences. I found that I could only read one page per sitting, so badly did I want to savor it's exquisite flavors. Count me in as a new advocate of Ann Patchett!
The characters are extremely well-drawn, from the ineffectual Vice-President to the selfless priest to the twitchy terrorists, mostly ordinary men and clueless teenagers who find themselves stuck in a no-win situation. Unlikely relationships form and love blooms in spite of impossible barriers of language and nationality.
And if the ending seems a bit tacked on, know that the author assued me that true love reigns. And she should know!
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