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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Ann Patchett

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,453362273 (3.95)1 / 771
Title:Bel Canto
Authors:Ann Patchett
Info:Fourth Estate Ltd (2002), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001)

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English (354)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Korean (1)  All (362)
Showing 1-5 of 354 (next | show all)
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's about an opera singer who is taken hostage along with a number of other important government individuals by a group intent on overthrowing the existing government. The interesting part of the story is what happens when the hostages and the soldiers holding them captive are waiting for something to happen. The lines between men and women blur when we find a soldier is actually a beautiful woman. We're left to wonder why we love someone--is it for what they can do or for who they are? Is love interchangeable? Can we transfer our love to someone who is similar to someone who reminds us of the one we truly loved? In times of crisis are we forced to come forward to show our greatness? I was fascinated by this book. ( )
  ErinDenver | Jun 12, 2017 |
Chronicle of a multinational group of the rich and powerful held hostage for months. ( )
  christinedux | Jun 7, 2017 |
Oh my! What a wonderful story -- I wish I wouldn't have put off reading it for so long!
It is the story of terrorists taking over at a state dinner in an unnamed South American country, the taking of hostages in hopes of getting their demands met, and how the terrorists and hostages come to know each other and get along after living for several months together -- oh, and there's lots of opera music involved!
Doesn't that sound like the strangest concept? Well, it isn't. It is a beautiful story, beautifully written, and very believable. I highly recommend this book, and I'm going out to find more Ann Patchett books right away! ( )
1 vote TerriS | May 9, 2017 |
Wow. This book gripped me from the beginning and never disappointed. An American Diva has been brought to a small South American country to sing for the birthday celebration of a Japanese industrialist, in the hopes that he will gratefully situate a factory there. The event is invaded by terrorists and the guests held hostage for months. There was such a sympathy for her characters and and optimism about human nature here, as well as a deep belief in the power of music. The best book I've read in quite some time. ( )
  gbelik | Apr 23, 2017 |
I'll begin by making my apologies to Ann Patchett fans for my rating. This book appears on some of the "must read lists" so my expectations were high. Maybe this is a case of, "It's not you, it's me," with "you" referring to the novel.

This is the first book I have read by Patchett. The writing was good but I really didn't feel a connection with the story, even though it focused on an introspective type of character analysis. I wasn't a big fan of the whole opera theme, not especially because I don't care for opera myself, but as the story progressed it just seemed like a distraction. If Patchett was trying to make a commentary about political and social conditions in South America, she really didn't incorporate much information about the historical and cultural background of the country. Also, the epilogue kind of threw me for a loop.

I could understand some of the themes presented in the novel, such as hostages beginning to identify with their captors. At one point there was a statement made, "Gen knew that everything was getting better and not just for him. People were happier." However, none of the captors seemed to have particularly unhappy lives before they were taken hostage. So, hmmm .....

This book just didn't work for me, but I wouldn't discourage anyone else from reading it. Since I seem to be in the minority with my opinion, you might love it! ( )
  Lisa805 | Apr 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 354 (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
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Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

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 10 descriptions

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