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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Ann Patchett

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9,869334287 (3.94)1 / 723
Title:Bel Canto
Authors:Ann Patchett
Info:Fourth Estate Ltd (2002), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001)

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English (325)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Korean (1)  All languages (333)
Showing 1-5 of 325 (next | show all)
This is a novel that expands on the real-life takeover of the embassy in Peru. Here it is the Vice President's home that is overrun, during a birthday celebration for Mr Hosokawa, starring soprano Roxanne Coss. The author takes us on a journey that explores how the hostages and terrorists forge unions/clicques/truces ... how they carve out territory and settle into routine ... how they ignore reality and live on dreams.

Our book club rated this as one of the best books we have read. Patchett writes literary fiction, and there is lots to discuss in her works. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 10, 2016 |
A not entirely orginial premise - terrorists take hostages and hostages become fond of terrorists. I'm sure it's been done before but nevertheless I enjoyed this book.
It reminded me of both Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Louis de Bernieres.
I enjoyed the different characters and the changes they went through - both personally and in their relationships.
Wasn't sure about the epilogue but it didn't marr the overall experience. ( )
  Laurochka | Feb 6, 2016 |
Beautiful and lyrical. A story of what happens between capturees and capturors in a fictional country and a party at that country's Vice President's fictional home written as an opera. Wonderful escape into the words and music of an excellent author. Brava!
( )
  ellenuw | Jan 27, 2016 |
Slow moving; great character development. Interesting concept. Seemed to be realistic, but some parts were not so believable. Too serious for me to actually appreciate any intended comic aspects. ( )
  Suziere | Jan 24, 2016 |
Beautifully written. This is my second Ann Patchett book, and I find her writing to be like a fine hand cream, so easily absorbed and satisfying.

Finding that it was inspired by the true "Japanese embassy hostage crisis" in 1996 gives it an even more realistic flavor. While it seems far-fetched that this could have gone on 4 months, that is exactly what happened in Peru. In that time, the characters in the book go from hostages/terrorists to friends. When the people are freed in the end, the scene is abrupt, tragic and horrifying. I became very fond of many of the guerrilla-type terrorists (my book club decided that the term guerrilla was infinitely more appropriate than terrorist). My heart hurt to see them killed in such a systematic manner. However, to the soldiers who finally broke the stalemate with their guns, the situation must have looked very different.

The fact that music was the common language shared by the people in the mansion was fascinating. The term "Bel Canto" means "beautiful music" in Italian, and it's obvious why Patchett chose this title. However, deeper down, bel canto expresses:
A light tone in higher registers: perhaps the terrorist releasing the women and children, as well as catering to Roxanne
An agile, flexible technique: the President was not available for kidnapping, so the terrorists changed their tactic
Fast and accurate divisions: this was obvious with the swiftness of the attack both in the beginning and when they were liberated at the end
Complete mastery of breath control: I see this obviously in the role of Roxanne, but also in Gen, who remains perfectly professional throughout the entire ordeal

The one and only item in the novel that distracted me was the vulgar use of the "f-word". I felt that it was completely out of line with the rhythm of the narrative, showed a decidedly lack of imagination in the wording of those scenes making use of the term, and was a detriment to the tone and feel of the novel. I was, in short, disappointed with Patchett's inclusion of what I found to be gratuitous obscenity.

That being said, I highly recommend this book. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 325 (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
Original language

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:21 -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. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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