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Bel Canto (2001)

by Ann Patchett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,702414380 (3.94)1 / 868
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)
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    the_awesome_opossum: Both novels are about human connections formed in the face of unusual crises. Very competent and well-written, both books had much the same vibe about them
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English (405)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Korean (1)  All languages (413)
Showing 1-5 of 405 (next | show all)
In an unnamed South American country, a very wealthy Japanese industrialist is feted on his birthday. No expense is spared; the world’s most famous opera singer is the entertainment. The guest list is packed with the world’s rich and famous, all wondering if the Japanese will invest in this country. The only person missing is the president of the country – he decided to stay home and watch his nightly soap opera instead.

A group of twenty terrorists/freedom fighters break into the party held at the Vice President’s house and take the two hundred guests hostage. Their plan is to trade the President for their comprades in prison. But the president isn’t there and the terrorists don’t seem to have another plan.

As the days wear on, we not only see the humanity but also come to care about members in both the hostage and the terrorist groups. And they also begin to care about each other as friendship and romance bloom in unexpected places.

Of course, it can’t go on forever. The ending was both better and worse than I expected with an unforeseen, almost jarring, twist in the epilogue.

Although I was surprised that the terrorists didn’t realize the value of their other hostages as political trade, I would highly recommend this book. Humanity, humor, desperation, romance, friendship, despair and healing. ( )
  streamsong | Aug 9, 2020 |
Very engrossing - an excellent read. ( )
  highlander6022 | Aug 2, 2020 |
A beautiful book! The music came alive and the characters seemed so vivid. I would have given it 5 stars, except that the epilogue took away from the story. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
This book begins with preparations for a birthday party at the home of the vice president, Ruben Iglesias in a poor, unnamed South American country for the Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa. The draw to get him to come and perhaps build a factory in this country, is the famous opera singer, Roxane Coss--probably his favorite opera singer of all time. Unfortunately, a terrorist group from the country sees this an opportunity to kidnap the president of the country and get some of their demands met. The party is held on a Tuesday night, the same night as the president's favorite soap opera so he ends up not attending. In all there are about 200 people in attendance when just after Roxane Coss's recital, the terrorist invade the house and take all prisoner. Over the first week or so most are released but 58 men and 1 woman are kept to get their demands met. The woman is Roxane Coss, who eventually makes the situation more palatable to the hostages and terrorists through her daily practices. The story centers on the interactions between and among the terrorists and hostages--how they come to view each other differently and forge unexpected bonds. Another major character is Gen Watanabe, the translator for Mr. Hosokawa. His services are in great demand since the hostages come from many countries and speak many languages, English, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, French, and German. ( )
  baughga | Jul 26, 2020 |
The unexpected bonds that can grow between people is at the heart of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. Katsumi Hokosawa, a Japanese industrialist, is having his 53rd birthday party in an unnamed South American country. The country has invited him to this party, to be held at the Vice President's mansion, in the hopes that he will invest there. He has no intention of doing so and declines...until he finds out that they have secured the performance of Roxane Coss for the party. Hokosawa is an opera devotee, and Coss is the world's foremost soprano. So he and his translator, Gen Watanabe, make the trip. No sooner, though, has Coss finished her performance than all the lights go out. Suddenly, the partygoers find themselves surrounded by young men bearing arms. They've come to abduct the president, and when they find out he's not there, they're not quite sure what to do but take the 200 guests hostage.

The hostages are winnowed down over time to the 39 most important men, including the vice president, ambassadors, businessmen, and of course Hokosawa himself (along with his translator) and Roxane Coss. Days go by, then weeks. Gen the translator finds himself very busy indeed as the guests and the soldiers get to know each other inside the mansion. Relationships of all kinds form: one of ringleaders and Hokosawa become chess partners and teach one of the young soldiers, another soldier with a beautiful voice becomes Roxane's student, romantic entanglements form (it turns out not all those soldiers are boys, after all). Always the question looms: how will this all end?

This is the first time I've read Patchett, and she's a gifted writer: her prose is sensitive, deeply felt, lyrical. She has a strong sense of character, and besides the ending, no action the people she creates on the page (and she creates people, complete with their own emotional truth, rather than just "characters") feels false. Even the people she spends less time with feel complete and real. The novel is well-paced and plotted...after the initial high drama of the home invasion, little else happens in terms of events and the action unfolds naturally from the unveiling of personalities and the growing bonds between the people at hand.

What keeps this as a very good book rather than great one, for me, is the very end. The action that two people take is...jarring. Trying to contextualize it in terms of what those two have gone through, you can understand that a rash decision might be made, but it still feels off. And it bugged me a lot, because I'd so loved everything that came before and to close on that sour note didn't feel right. It's 98% of a great book, but it could have been 100% of one and that is frustrating. ( )
  GabbyHM | Jun 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 405 (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, AnnaNarratorsecondary 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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Karl VanDevender
First words
When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Translator, a star
In hostage situation
Love and friendships thrive
(julienne_preacher)

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