Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This is the second time I've read Bel Canto, and it was even better than I remembered. It's a quiet story about what happens when terrorists take a dinner party full of diplomats and business leaders hostage in an unnamed, poor South American country. The terrorists' goal was to capture the president, but he stayed home to watch his soap opera. Yet they do have one prize: Roxanne Coss, the best soprano singer in the opera world.

You might think the story would be plot-driven and action-packed since it features terrorists and hostages, but it is really more about the passing of time and the relationships that develop among the people. It has beautiful language and although almost nothing seems to happen, many things change as everyone slowly starts to forget that this isn't normal life and it won't last forever. As one of my book club friends said, the author tells you in the first few pages that something will happen, but by the time you get to the end you can hardly believe that it will. It's a testament to Patchett's power of storytelling that you even begin to think maybe it won't. The epilogue was shocking to me the first time I read Bel Canto and I paged back through the book trying to see what I had missed, but upon reflection and a second reading, it makes sense. This is a beautiful book, and I highly recommend it.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial, 2005)
My rating: 5 stars

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