Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Release Date: April 16, 2002
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Length: 336 pages

Somewhere in South America at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening: until a band of terrorists breaks in, taking the entire party hostage.

But what begins as a life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.

Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto is a virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers.

This book was beautiful. And fascinating. And heartbreaking. And so many other things that I can't quite figure out how to say. I'm going to try to keep this review from being simple gushing, but be warned that I might not entirely succeed.

This novel is about a group of diplomats and other important or wealthy people who are held ransom by a terrorist group for money and for the release of certain political prisoners. When the government refuses to give in, a very long stalemate begins and the story of Bel Canto begins. This novel was in fact based on an actual situation in Lima, Peru; an interesting bit of information that I wasn't aware of while reading the book.

The characterization in this novel was amazing. The party is taken hostage very early in the story, so we slowly discover who the characters are while they're already prisoners, fleshing out the characters slowly and through their actions rather than any previous knowledge we might have had. The terrorists, too, were made into interesting and fully-formed characters. The reader starts to empathize with them as the hostages do, making the "villain" in the story much harder to spot. By the end, I was rooting for the terrorists as much as I was rooting for the prisoners, which was a brilliant piece of work on the author's part.

The ending to this book was gorgeous, too. I knew, I knew it was coming, but in my blissful ignorance still ended up so emotionally attached to these characters that every moment mattered to me.

In my personal opinion, you should go read this book. Now, if possible. It was truly a fantastic story, and I'm really looking forward to reading more from this author.

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