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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto (2001)

by Ann Patchett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,078None329 (3.94)1 / 640
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English (289)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  Korean (1)  French (1)  All languages (296)
Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)
I finished Bel Canto last night and absolutely loved it! I have never understood opera, but now I want to explore it. Ann Patchett creates a world within a world and I don’t care whether it is entirely believable: it carried me away and gave me hope! It also seems to be the perfect novel for our fast-paced technology-driven internet-addicted world: the hostages inside the mansion live cut off from the outside world for almost 5 months. It is only by being isolated in this way, that they discover what they had never noticed on the outside: a boy who has no schooling at all discovers that he can sing, just by imitating a great singer; a Japanese business man who has spent his life driven by numbers, acquisitions and business decisions discovers how to live with all the time in the world, a young illiterate woman realizes she wants to learn how to read and write in several languages, and every single character in the story survives by practicing a certain routine - and then breaking it - and the freedom that follows, when they embark on the path of a new routine… and then it all ends, as it has to end.

"Where before there had been endless hours of work, negotiations, and compromises, there were now chess games with a terrorist for whom he felt an unaccountable fondness." ( )
  elwetritsche | Mar 28, 2014 |
This review contains SPOILERS:

I loved this book! I enjoyed the way that Patchett slowly and carefully developed the characters. It was totally believable. I came to respect and care for the terrorists, especially the youngest ones and the girls, and I so wanted them to get out of this situation safely. But, of course, I knew that would not / could not happen. As I was nearing the end of the book, I was afraid to turn the page because I knew it was coming. My heart was at the back of my throat and, yet, I was just as surprised as the hostages were. And I was very saddened at the death of Mr. H. and Carmen but realize that it was the only resolution to their situation. Had they lived they would have been separated from the love of their life forever. Gen would have had to go back to Japan and leave Carmen behind in jail or executed perhaps and Mr. H. would have gone back to his wife and his life in big business in Japan. This way they die at the height of their happiness.

However, that still leaves Gen and Roxanne. I did not buy them getting married. It doesn't ring true for me. But, I guess, from the perspective of living through such a crisis and both losing their lovers, they could relate to one another in a way that no one else could. I am unclear as to how long after their release from captivity their wedding took place, but it just didn't seem to me to be realistic.

Still, a great read! 4.5 stars ( )
  ccookie | Mar 23, 2014 |
A gracefully built novel driven by art, suspense, and desperation, this is one of those stories which weaves together so many characters and lines of thought that you must read it quickly, or simply be left behind. Patchett's prose is as masterful as ever, and this story of a doomed birthday party brings together terrorists and socialites in a manner that is, very simply, breathtaking. The book is worth reading for the fascinating characters alone, but the way that they come together is truly a story worth falling into and experiencing, particularly considering the climate of politics and current affairs we find ourselves attempting to survive with every day that passes.

Absolutely recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Mar 20, 2014 |
Orange Award winner,

Unusual and fascinating study of fear, accommodation and communication. There is nothing ordinary about Bel Canto.

The story opens at a diplomatic event in a third world country - a birthday party for the head of a Japanese electronics giant, featuring a world-renowned soprano and attended by a Who's Who of local politicians and international financiers and businessmen. When terrorists take the gathering hostage but can't find the president of the country (who is home watching his favorite soap opera), they are nonplussed.

The weeks-long hostage situation forms the basis for Patchett's story, and it's worth the time - although it does get a bit tedious towards the end. ( )
  wareagle78 | Feb 8, 2014 |
This was my first read by this author and I was captured by the story. In a way, it reminded me of the play, Twelve Angry Men, as the story takes place inside of a home with a cast of characters who have essentially only 2 things in common. One is that they enjoy a certain artists and gather for the artists performance, and the other is that they are all taken captive with little, if any, hope of survival. External and artificial status are stripped away from each, leaving only their own characters intact. Relationships are built based on the real person, and not the public persona. Unexpected twists and outcomes make this reading worth while. Her character development was solid, as for the most part, I was able to believe and identify with the characters. I suppose the other star in the rating would have been given had the depth of the story be more notable. As it is, I enjoyed the book very much, but would not consider reading it again for sheer pleasure, as I would a great book. ( )
  pife43 | Jan 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)
''Bel Canto'' often shows Patchett doing what she does best -- offering fine insights into the various ways in which human connections can be forged, whatever pressures the world may place upon them.
Although this novel is entirely housebound, at the vice presidential mansion, Ms. Patchett works wonders to avoid any sense of claustrophobia and keeps the place fresh at every turn.

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patchett, Annprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bonis, OristelleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Euthymiou, MaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fields, AnnaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Figueira, Maria do CarmoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hrubý, JiříTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaluđerović, MajaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lauer, KarenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Løken, Silje BeiteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leistra, AukeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mastrangello, StellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, Kirsten A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preminger, SharonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pugliese, LucianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schapel, EvelinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sporrong, DorotheeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stabej, JožeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wanatphong, Čhittrāphō̜nTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolnicka, AleksandraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Xie, YaolingTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yamamoto, YayoiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Fonti e colline chiesi agli Dei;
m 'udiro alfine,
pago io vovro,
ne mai quel fonte co 'desir miei,
ne mai quel monte trapassero

"I asked the Gods for hills and springs;
They listened to me at last.
I shall live contented.
And I shall never desire to go beyond that spring,
nor shall I desire to cross that mountain."

-- Sei Ariette I: Malinconia, ninfa gentil,
Vincenzo Bellini
Sprecher: Ihr Fremdlinge! was sucht oder fordert ihn von uns?
Tamino: Freundschaft und Liebe.
Sprecher: Bist du bereit, es mit deinem Leben zu erkämpfen?
Tamino: Ja.

Speaker: Stranger, what do you seek or ask from us?
Tamino: Friendship and love.
Speaker: And are you prepared even if it costs you your life?
Tamino: I am.

-- The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
For Karl VanDevender
First words
When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary
Translator, a star
In hostage situation
Love and friendships thrive

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060838728, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:40:39 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. It's a perfect evening -- until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in and take the entire party hostage.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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