“It makes you wonder. All the brilliant things we might have done with our lives if only we suspected we knew how.”
Published: May 22, 2001
Rate: 4.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, 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 Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Swiss Red Cross negotiator oachim Messner comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands. Days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months. 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.
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.
Fun fact: Bel Canto is based on a true story that happened in 1996 in Lima.
I feel like this review should be summed up with I LOVED THIS BOOK GO READ IT!
It’s no secret that I truly and absolutely love Ann Patchett and she brilliantly shines in this novel. In Bel Canto Patchett fuses opera and a hostage situation. A mash up that fits seamlessly. Her writing is lyrical and flows so well. This book has really long chapters and at no point did I want to pause for a break.
“If what a person wants is his life, he tends to be quiet about wanting anything else.”
The plot is action packed, yet whimsical. And when I say action I mean so much is happening, with the characters having their own challenges and in between the seriousness there’s a humorous undertone.
The characters themselves are well written, some much better than others and they make for great companions. You have all these people from different countries who don’t speak the same language, but the music connects them. My personal favourites; Mr Hosokawa, the interpretor, The Vice president and Camille.
The ending was one unexpected turnabout that added to the story, rather than take away from it. I loved it!
Little bits that made the book more interesting: elements of music and how the hostages dealt with boredom. At some point I forgot about the hostage situation.
If its not clear already, I highly recommend this book. Definitely one you should add to your tbr if you haven’t read it already.