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Bel Canto: The best selling Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and author of The Dutch House Kindle Edition
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About the Author
ANN PATCHETT is the author of eight novels, four works of nonfiction, and two children's books. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the PEN/Faulkner, the Women's Prize in the U.K., and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her most recent novel, The Dutch House, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. TIME magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
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 alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B084KJT5PG
- Publisher : Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (February 27, 2020)
- Publication date : February 27, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 1140 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 331 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1841155837
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #338,459 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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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.
Katsumi Hosokawa is turning 53, not a particularly notable birthday, and in a bald faced attempt to entice him to build a factory in this backwater country, the government throws him a lavish birthday party at the opulent home of the vice president. The only reason Hosokawa agrees to attend is that the evening's entertainment is his favorite opera singer, the world-renowned Roxane Coss. But terror and fear reign when armed gunmen storm the house and take hostage well over 100 people from a myriad of countries, who speak a myriad of languages. The standoff lasts for months, and during that time the hostages and their captors eventually form what could be described as a near utopia.
Magnificently written with vividly drawn characters, this book is pure genius. The prose is so breathtaking in spots that it is almost poetic, while the storytelling—told individually from many characters' point of view—is absolutely superb. This book is a real treasure.
Bonus: The epilogue qualifies as a surprise ending—but one that also makes total sense.
So I guess it's a compliment to say that the author captures the boredom and tedium quite well.
Unfortunately, since she gives away the ending early, and the character interactions don't really build to anything, the book loses momentum by the halfway mark.
I dunno, maybe there will be a wild finish, I'm just not rushing to return to it, so I am leaving my review in case I drop dead before I finish.
Top reviews from other countries
Unfortunately the rest of us had a range of less positive responses. I was the one who disliked it most and I remain flummoxed by it. It's an award-winner and I expected to enjoy it. The first 80 pages or so were readable and I settled down with the expectation that it would develop — but it became, for me, steadily more tedious, flat and unbelievable. I was locked out of it, as if watching the action from behind a glass screen. Because the characters cannot speak each others' languages there is very little dialogue, so there is little chance for them to talk for themselves. Patchett instead tells us what everyone is thinking and feeling: she tells us that Mr Hosokowa and Roxane Coss (the diva who casts her spell over everyone in the house) have fallen in love though I really couldn't see or believe it.
Patchett also seems to wilfully ignore psychology. What group of men (more than 50 if I remember correctly) held hostage by some pretty lacklustre terrorists inclined to spend their days watching TV, would not attempt some kind of rebellion? What group of alpha males would be so mesmerised by the sound and sight of Roxane Coss that they would all, every one, fall in love and become passive and content to live there for ever? I did wonder if this was an allusion to the Siren, beguiling all who hear her song — but no, there was nothing sinister or complex about it.
I longed for real detail about how everyone managed for weeks without a change of underwear, or how the single intermediary managed to get enough food into the house each day to feed all the captives and their captors for so long. Or what they all did all day, because I couldn't believe they were all content to just stare out of the window looking at the scenery: not for months on end. Nothing about the book felt authentic to me. Not the setting in some unnamed South American country which is vaguely ridiculed. Not the characters, not the way they are reported as interacting with each other. Imagine my astonishment when, after I'd finished, I discovered that it was based on real events in Lima in 1996.
Someone in the book group wondered whether Bel Canto is supposed to be understood like an opera. An implausible plot that exists only to offer opportunities for big emotions and arias. Characters who react unrealistically. A lack of everyday detail. A chorus of male hostages who are mainly silent and invisible until called on to fill a scene. A sudden dramatic ending. Unfortunately, Patchett can only tell us about the music, so the novel lacks the sublime musical moments that make the ridiculousness of most operas bearable. And this is a fundamental problem when writing a novel about music. You need to hear the music, not just be told how wonderful it is.
I think possibly the only way of knowing whether you'll fall under Bel Canto's strange spell or not is to read it for yourself. If you get to page 100 and are feeling bored and uninvolved, give up. It really isn't worth continuing if you are locked out.
Whilst I was reading the book I was talking to others about it and many people I know have read it.
To my delight I found this book to give me real joy as it is an amazing study of human nature. The action is set in an unspecified South American country where a party is drawn to an abrupt ending by a group of terrorists who then take everyone as hostages.
We then follow the progress of the situation and observe how the relationships develop.
In some ways the writing is immensely claustrophobic with frequent mention of the day to day detail necessary to maintain life and sanity. Surrounding this there is much beauty and love which seems both unlikely and absolutely natural at the same time.
Inside the house the terrorists and the hostages seem content for time to drift as their lives slow down and it's very much the same for the reader. It is odd how such a gripping book took me a long time to read - that's usually a bad sign but with this book I was just savouring it.
As the end approaches the tension for the reader mounts - we know the book is running out of pages but the hostages still have no idea what is going to happen (and I loved the end of the book, it was surprising but completely plausible).
I was particularly curious about how the passing of time was illustrated. It would have been easy for the author to date time chapters (or something similar) but it is handled in a much more subtle way with the reader having to search for clues (clothes needing to be washed and beards having been grown as just two examples). We really only have a vague idea about how long the siege has been underway which is much the same for all those involved.
If Puccini was alive today, he may well have written this story. This is a book that centers around an opera singer and is written in the style of an opera. It has all the hallmarks: a heroine who all men fall in love with, love affairs between unlikely protagonists, West Side Story style bad gang find common ground (and love) with good gang, poor meet rich, national stereotyping, tragic death (won't tell you who) and a twist in the tale.
It took me a while to enjoy the book. It wasn’t until I switched my mindset to one of sitting high up in a theatre, absorbing an unrealistic story on the stage, suspending reality, and just enjoying the melodrama that the page turns became enjoyable. There are references to the modern TV soap opera, people who discover the world-beating talent that they never knew they had, fathers adopting lost boys, boys who go unnoticed until they reveal themselves to be girls, bad guys with bad skin and a love of chess and even a character called Carmen. All that was needed was for the author to rename the chapters to Acts. The whole opera is played out on a single set of the home of a South American country’s Vice President.
Much of the prose is beautifully written and the characters are memorable and full of personality, so sit back, put on your favorite Verdi or Rossini playlist and wallow in the romanticism and tragedy.
Music, and opera singing, infuse this novel, and becomes the motivation of many of the events and decisions within the group of hostages, and indeed some of the captors.
The seriousness of the situation, and the humour used to describe the everyday life inside the house, (they all settle down to a comfortable routine) make a curious combination, which wouldn't be to everyone's taste. I enjoyed the book, but was not carried away by it, hence the four stars.