- Series: P.S.
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Rei Dlx edition (June 10, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061565318
- ISBN-13: 978-0061565311
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,608 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bel Canto (P.S.) Paperback – Deckle Edge, June 10, 2008
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In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.
Among the hostages are not only Hosokawa and Roxane Coss, the American soprano, but an assortment of Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Reuben Iglesias, the diminutive and gracious vice president, quickly gets sideways of the kidnappers, who have no interest in him whatsoever. Meanwhile, a Swiss Red Cross negotiator named Joachim Messner is roped into service while vacationing. He comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands, and the days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months.
With the omniscience of magic realism, Ann Patchett flits in and out of the hearts and psyches of hostage and terrorist alike, and in doing so reveals a profound, shared humanity. Her voice is suitably lyrical, melodic, full of warmth and compassion. Hearing opera sung live for the first time, a young priest reflects:
Never had he thought, never once, that such a woman existed, one who stood so close to God that God's own voice poured from her. How far she must have gone inside herself to call up that voice. It was as if the voice came from the center part of the earth and by the sheer effort and diligence of her will she had pulled it up through the dirt and rock and through the floorboards of the house, up into her feet, where it pulled through her, reaching, lifting, warmed by her, and then out of the white lily of her throat and straight to God in heaven.Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds. Time stands still, priorities rearrange themselves. Ultimately, of course, something has to give, even in a novel so imbued with the rich imaginative potential of magic realism. But in a fractious world, Bel Canto remains a gentle reminder of the transcendence of beauty and love. --Victoria Jenkins --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Opera and terrorism make strange bedfellows, yet in this novel they complement each other nicely. 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. Patchett (The Patron Saint of Liars) balances terrorism, love, and music nicely here. Anna Fields has a pleasant voice and reads clearly, although she doesn't differentiate among the characters especially well. The tape quality is excellent. Recommended for large public libraries. Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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
When finished, oddly enough, I had this immense feeling of humility and gratitude!
Where you are born, REALLY MATTERS!
LOVED the struggles that the author helped each character who self-actualized.
The book drags a bit in the middle of the story, but it is building towards the finale...
Well worth the read - will be reading more by this author
I really felt like I was inside the residence and could not only "visualize" the protagonists, but actually "feel" them....
I have had this book on my shelf for years. I don't know what took me so long to read it. I loved Run and The Magician's Assistant, titles also by Patchett. A discussion on twitter revealed many others loved Patchett but had not read this book. It also received mixed reviews, those that loved it and those that could not finish it.
I am definitely in the loved it group. Patchett is am amazing writer, very lyrical and beautiful. Opera and terrorism seem to be odd in the same book plot but Patchett made it work. This is not a fast read and is a novel to be savored. It isn't political but about relationships that develop in unusual circumstances. All become used to their situation. Roxane discovers one of the young captors has an amazing voice and wants to help him become an opera star. Gen, Mr. Hosokawa's interpreter becomes the interpreter for the group and learns many secrets and falls for a young woman in the terrorist group. Ruben wants to adopt another of the young captors, a boy who has become like a son to him. They stop thinking about what is happening in the outside world as I did. But a hostage situation can not go on forever. The ending comes suddenly and the very ending surprised me and I'm not sure whether it was believable or inevitable.
Regardless, this was a beautiful story and if it is sitting on your shelf, pick it up and read it already!
my rating 5/5