Friday, August 12, 2016

Bel Canto

I read Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, a couple of months ago but never got around to posting a blog on it.  Between getting ready for vacation and then actually travelling for a few weeks, it fell by the wayside but I am correcting that now because it was such a fantastic novel and one that affected me deeply.

Synopsis (extracted from Amazon blurb):
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.
When I first found out that Bel Canto was a hostage story, I was not thrilled, but since I loved Patchett's State of Wonder and The Story of a Happy Marriage, I decided to trust her to give me a good book.  She did!

I was enthralled almost from the beginning, and came to love and understand and be invested in all the characters, the revolutionaries (both the leaders and the child soldiers) as well as the hostages.  I thought Patchett's exploration of the relationships that can develop between people who share a space in the world, even when separated by language, background, and prospects was profound.

I was absolutely crushed by the ending.  I kept on wondering how Patchett could save the revolutionaries, and she didn't and I cried for them.  Also, I didn't buy that Roxanne Cox and Gen were a real couple at the end.  That came out of the blue and made no sense to me, given the rest of the story and who they were and who they cared about.  I've searched a bit and it seems like a lot of readers felt the same way about the ending that I did.

I read this book as part of the TBR Pile Challenge for 2016.


  1. It's been a long time since I read this book, so I don't remember specifics other than hating the ending. Patchett is a favorite and many consider this to be her best, but I've read them all and it's at the bottom of my list.

  2. Great review of this book. It sounds very good.

    I can relate to being upset over book's ending. Sometimes it is reflective of life. On the other hand, an unrealistic plot twist can mar an otherwise worthy piece of writing.

  3. The epilogue did not bother me, believable or not. But the "real" ending just gutted me. Like the characters, I was living in a bubble while reading the book, you know?

    I was so amazed by this book because by just looking at the blurb, I would not be interested in it, but it does absolutely sweep the reader in in the first pages. So glad I took a chance on it!

  4. I got about halfway through this one and couldn't quite pick it up again. It's still waiting....I do want to finish it one day but it was a hard read for me.

    1. Thanks for stopping by--it was a hard read. There were times when I felt nothing was happening, and then it swept me up again.

  5. Great review! It sounds like a fantastic book. I love books that are unique stories and I can't guess the ending. I also feel like you - with vacations and now being back to work, I have let several reviews fall by the wayside. I need to get caught up!

  6. Although I've read a number of Patchett's books I haven't read Bel Canto which I must do someday. Most people think it's her best -- do you think so? I tried not to look at your spoilers section.