Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

So far Ann Patchett is batting a thousand with me. What took me so long to discover her books?  This engaging plot unfolds in a South American country at a posh social event.  A world famous opera singer, Roxane Coss, is the draw for dignitaries across the globe.  You have guests from France, Russia, Spain, Italy, Japan and the USA, all gathered for a Japanese businessman’s birthday.

Suddenly the lights go out as Coss’s crystal voice serenades the guests.  “I can sing by candlelight if anyone could provide a candle.” Then it dawns on everyone they have been taken hostage by a terrorist group. Gunfire, screaming and chaos ensue. Eventually a Red Cross negotiator arrives but it’s not a quick end to the hostage situation.

Patchett’s slow moving narrative had me wanting the pace to pick up yet I was fascinated by the interactions between the hostages and the terrorists.  One character called Gen is the translator for the Japanese guest, Katsumi Hosokowa.  He speaks an incredible number of languages so he is put upon for contant translating between the terrorists and all hostages.  Some guests knew French and Russian but not Spanish, some knew English and French but not Russian, and the list goes on. Watch as the relationships between those taken hostage and those wielding guns and control change bit by bit.  Not quite Stockholm Syndrome but it’s a remarkable and slow change in interactions.

I had to look up the term Bel Canto as I didn’t know what it meast.  Beautiful singing, how appropriate for this novel.

The ending was both expected and yet there was one event that took me off guard.  On reflection I can see the logic in how one pair of hostages ended up.

I could see how a 4 month hostage situation with “kindly” kidnappers could evolve into some unlikely relationships. These people weren’t killers, completely unorganized as well, so as the time stretched on privileges for the hostages were allowed.

I realize I’m being cryptic but to reveal details and my thoughts would completely ruin the story and progression for you. I will add my questions and thought in the spoiler portion when I post to Goodreads.

My next book by Ann Patchett will be Commonwealth, once I get through the stack of library and recently purchased books awaiting me in the den.  I need to read what is on hand and stop requesting and buying!

7 thoughts on “Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

  1. I have had this book on my shelf for a LONG while. It’s always on my to-read list but I have bumped it down the list often. I need to put it on top. Have you seen the film with Julianne Moore?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I didn’t know there was a movie. I like Julianne Moore so I will check it, compare it to the books. I put the spoilers and my questions about the end on Goodreads where it can be hidden.


  2. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday – books that should be adapted to Netflix/Movies | Novel Meals

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