BEL CANTO    by Ann Patchett

In a remote town in South America a birthday party is held for a Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa.  He is the hope of the people.  Will he or will he not open a factory here in this desperate town?  To persuade him, the government has brought in a famous opera singer, Roxanne Coss, to perform at the gala.  The beautiful evening ends there as terrorists invade the home of the Vice President and hold the guests hostage.

What starts as bewilderment and dread slowly changes into an unlikely scenario of friendship, compassion and love.

While the hostages and their captors are from various countries and speak different languages, they seem to communicate well through other means.  They understand each other better than those who have known them for a lifetime.

As time stands still inside the Vice President's compound the line between prisoner and captor are blurred.  Life is going well for all involved however the reader knows something has got to give.



'bel canto' : n. A lyrical style of operatic singing using rich broad tone and smooth phrasing.

Ms. Pachette has created a beautiful novel that reads like an opera sounds

A happy celebration taken over by an unhappy militant organization using force to achieve freedom. The seige, an event the guests could not have anticipated. By page nine the reader is viewing the party in the past tense. It is not the party that matters it is the events which follow that mold and create the characters of Bel Canto. The guests begin the evening as strangers and enemies to become friends and lovers. These souls are now changed forever. As 'Bel Canto' reaches its crescendo and final note it is evident that there will not be a happy resolution to this story. In true operatic style, the final note of the song will be tragic.

The book left me with the desire to see an opera and experience first hand this art form that originates from the 17th century.

Stella's Boutique Rating 79/100 

Maxine's Aria

A group of revolutionaries conspire to kidnap a dignitary from their country who is having a birthday party for a possible economic saviour in Mr. Hosokawa.  This act is skewed and the terrorists decide to hold the entire guest list hostage.

Early on I feel Patchett encourages the reader to sympathize with the terrorists and hostages. The distinction between the two groups becomes distorted and we see a common denominator emerge - humanity.

I love the way the author had each character take stock of their life and redefine their new normal.  They were no longer employee, husband, businessman, wife; they were just people trying to survive and faced with their own mortality felt they should spend their time being and doing what they loved.  I really noticed this with the Vice President.  Enough said.

Mr. Hosokawa led a typical life.  He married properly.  He rose to the top and acted honourably.  He had children but did not know them really.  He isolated himself at work.  Now, surrounded by his one true passion, 0pera, he has come alive and has decided to reexamine how he will spend his time in captivity and perhaps for the rest of his life.  Gen too develops into a new person.  I had a strong connection to this character.  He stayed with me long after the last page was read.

The beginning captured my attention but felt the middle dragged.  The ending was expected yet dreaded.

The one character I have failed to mention is Opera.  I am not knowledgeable about this art however something resonated inside me when the author describes the audience when Roxane and later Cesar perform.  I want to feel that.  Maybe that is what I gained from this novel, a need to experience the musical drama known as Opera.

Maxine's Boutique Rating 78/100

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