- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1140 KB
- Print Length: 331 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1841155837
- Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (27 February 2020)
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B084KJT5PG
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 1,008 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,668 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
This price was set by the publisher.
Bel Canto: The best selling Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and author of The Dutch House Kindle Edition
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|Length: 331 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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From the Back Cover
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gunwielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.--This text refers to the paperback edition.
‘A beguiling mix of thriller, romantic comedy, and novel of ideas…Crisply written, immaculately plotted, and often very funny, it is that rarity – a literary novel you simply can’t put down.’ The Times
‘Like the blueprint of operatic performance that she has imported, Patchett slides from strutting camp to high tragedy, minute social comedy to sublime romanticism.’ Alex Clark, The Guardian
‘Expect miracles when you read Ann Patchett’s fiction. Comparisons are tempting to the unabashed romanticism of Laurie Colwin, the eccentric characters of Anne Tyler, the enchantments of Alice Hoffman. But Patchett is unique; a generous, fearless and startlingly wise young writer.’
New York Times Review of Books
‘A fantastically gripping novel of romance under unexpected conditions.’ Cosmopolitan--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top international reviews
Unfortunately the rest of us had a range of less positive responses. I was the one who disliked it most and I remain flummoxed by it. It's an award-winner and I expected to enjoy it. The first 80 pages or so were readable and I settled down with the expectation that it would develop — but it became, for me, steadily more tedious, flat and unbelievable. I was locked out of it, as if watching the action from behind a glass screen. Because the characters cannot speak each others' languages there is very little dialogue, so there is little chance for them to talk for themselves. Patchett instead tells us what everyone is thinking and feeling: she tells us that Mr Hosokowa and Roxane Coss (the diva who casts her spell over everyone in the house) have fallen in love though I really couldn't see or believe it.
Patchett also seems to wilfully ignore psychology. What group of men (more than 50 if I remember correctly) held hostage by some pretty lacklustre terrorists inclined to spend their days watching TV, would not attempt some kind of rebellion? What group of alpha males would be so mesmerised by the sound and sight of Roxane Coss that they would all, every one, fall in love and become passive and content to live there for ever? I did wonder if this was an allusion to the Siren, beguiling all who hear her song — but no, there was nothing sinister or complex about it.
I longed for real detail about how everyone managed for weeks without a change of underwear, or how the single intermediary managed to get enough food into the house each day to feed all the captives and their captors for so long. Or what they all did all day, because I couldn't believe they were all content to just stare out of the window looking at the scenery: not for months on end. Nothing about the book felt authentic to me. Not the setting in some unnamed South American country which is vaguely ridiculed. Not the characters, not the way they are reported as interacting with each other. Imagine my astonishment when, after I'd finished, I discovered that it was based on real events in Lima in 1996.
Someone in the book group wondered whether Bel Canto is supposed to be understood like an opera. An implausible plot that exists only to offer opportunities for big emotions and arias. Characters who react unrealistically. A lack of everyday detail. A chorus of male hostages who are mainly silent and invisible until called on to fill a scene. A sudden dramatic ending. Unfortunately, Patchett can only tell us about the music, so the novel lacks the sublime musical moments that make the ridiculousness of most operas bearable. And this is a fundamental problem when writing a novel about music. You need to hear the music, not just be told how wonderful it is.
I think possibly the only way of knowing whether you'll fall under Bel Canto's strange spell or not is to read it for yourself. If you get to page 100 and are feeling bored and uninvolved, give up. It really isn't worth continuing if you are locked out.
Whilst I was reading the book I was talking to others about it and many people I know have read it.
To my delight I found this book to give me real joy as it is an amazing study of human nature. The action is set in an unspecified South American country where a party is drawn to an abrupt ending by a group of terrorists who then take everyone as hostages.
We then follow the progress of the situation and observe how the relationships develop.
In some ways the writing is immensely claustrophobic with frequent mention of the day to day detail necessary to maintain life and sanity. Surrounding this there is much beauty and love which seems both unlikely and absolutely natural at the same time.
Inside the house the terrorists and the hostages seem content for time to drift as their lives slow down and it's very much the same for the reader. It is odd how such a gripping book took me a long time to read - that's usually a bad sign but with this book I was just savouring it.
As the end approaches the tension for the reader mounts - we know the book is running out of pages but the hostages still have no idea what is going to happen (and I loved the end of the book, it was surprising but completely plausible).
I was particularly curious about how the passing of time was illustrated. It would have been easy for the author to date time chapters (or something similar) but it is handled in a much more subtle way with the reader having to search for clues (clothes needing to be washed and beards having been grown as just two examples). We really only have a vague idea about how long the siege has been underway which is much the same for all those involved.
Patchett is an engaging writer when there is a good story to be told. I loved The Dutch House and Patron Saint of Liars, both five stars for me, but this one disappoints. She is so good with titles, isn't she? Bel Canto and Patron Saint of Liars...very original and captivating.
However, this was still a 3 star read for me as I did like the writing style and there were moments I really did like and hoped would develop. The ending was brilliantly written too, although I agree with the general consensus that the epilogue was unnecessary.
The story unfolds slowly, bit by bit we find out about the former lives of both the captives and captors - often with little flares of wit; the opera loving young priest and his confession is an example. The minutiae of everyday life for all these people is explored, and above all, the power of music to change and illuminate their lives runs through the whole.
The style is spare and apparently dispassionate, at least at first, and the book asks many more questions than it answers. I loved it, and will probably re-read it from time to time to again meet these wonderful characters.
A slow burn at the beginning you are drawn into the world of the hostages and the hostage takers. The pace alters with the action and the writing allows you to picture the scene and understand bit by bit the characters and their subtle personalities.
Intriguing how te interpreter worked and was able to convey thought, threats and endearments between characters with a professional distance whhich sets him apart.
Without doubt I will be reading more of Pratchett.
This is a treat of characters and relationships formed between captors and hostages. I'm still thinking about them.
Perhaps the wonder of the singing and music is a bit overblown but I explained that to myself and put it down to the intensity of the situation. Along with a few other reviews I found the ending rushed and a bit disappointing, as if the author ran out of time, word count, ideas.
But all that said, delighted to have read it and looking forward to reading more of her books.