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Bel Canto Paperback – April 16, 2002
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About the Author
Ann Patchett is the author of three previous novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Taft, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize; and The Magician's Assistant, which earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1994. She is also a recipient of the Nashville Banner Tennessee Writer of the Year Award. Patchett has written for many publications, including New York Times Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Village Voice, GQ, Elle, Gourmet, and Vogue.
Patchett attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she took writing classes with Alan Gurganus, Russell Banks, and Grace Paley. While an undergraduate, she sold her first story to the Paris Review. Patchett then went on to attend the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, and in 1990, she won a residential fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Here she wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, which was awarded a James A. Michner/Copernicus Award for a book in progress. The Patron Saint of Liars was adapted into a TV movie for CBS in 1997, and Patchett wrote the screenplay for Taft, which has been optioned by Morgan Freeman for a feature film.
Patchett lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
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Roxanne has the voice of an angel, one that turns men and women's hearts and souls toward her. She is beloved by many. "Even those who saw her for the first time, before she had opened her mouth to sing, found her radiant." She had been brought to what she calls "this dismal jungle" to sing for Mr. Hosakawa in celebration of his 53rd birthday. Mr. Hosakawa has loved opera since his youth and is in awe of Roxanne. Her singing brings forth emotions from inside him that he was never aware he even had. A new world opens up for him.
The guerrillas release all the women except Roxanne, while the men remain prisoners. The captors are a bunch of amateurs, mostly young, but all holding rifles. As the captives and captors begin to interact during the hostage situation, the real beauty of this novel comes into play. People befriend one another, others fall in love,a routine develops and music fills the atmosphere. Captors and captives alike are sympathetic characters and I was only fearful of the tragedy that I felt would ensue at some point. How, I thought, could this end well?
The country where this situation occurs is never named in the novel but it is reminiscent of the Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis that occurred in Lima, Peru in 1996. This book has been adapted into an opera and the movie rights were recently sold and the stars will be Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe.
If you love literary fiction with eccentric and well-developed characters, this is a must-read. If you love music, you are in for a treat that will knock you socks off.
by Ann Patchett
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Genre: Litterature, fiction
I truthfully had no idea what to expect when picking up Bel Canto. The title was a bit intimidating and I was afraid it was going to be some fluffy classic piece of work. However, Bel Canto is nothing like I expected.
The book was first published in 2005, so it is still a relatively modern piece of work. The title comes from the opera which is a central theme in this novel. You could probably summarize the entire book as opera is life. Except that I am not a big fan of opera and I did enjoy this book.
Bel Canto is a character novel. It is the characters more than the action that moves along the plot. The male characters are portrayed in such detail and with such depth that I could not help but fall in love with the book. The female characters, however, are cartoon characters only described by how they impact the males around them. Most of the wives are just random people who happen to raise their children. The main female character, the opera soprano, is just an idol for male affection. Everyone loves her yet she never becomes real. This is emphasized by how the story ended. The only female characters that are ever seen as people are the two female terrorists. Yet, they both start and end the book being categorized as boys, which seems to be the only way that this depth is acceptable.
The story is a very romantic idealization, that actually makes sense from a psychological standpoint. When you spend a lot of time with a person you start to see them as actual people. They no longer are just filtered by your stereotypes. There is an entire syndrome characterizing individuals who become devoted to those who are holding them hostage. This novel is an entire fictionalized account of Stockholm syndrome in beautiful prose.
As reviewed on The Book Recluse Review