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Like Hilary Mantel, Ann Patchett can switch genres, topics and tones with each book she produces. I knew nothing about this book, but I enjoy her writing - particularly loved The Dutch House. Bel Canto is a world away, though there is the same attention to detail in setting the scene, and the same ability to make you warm to a character in spite of yourself. In this book she manages to make a harrowing event, hostage taking, into a mildly amusing diary of developments. The hostages are a group of wealthy business men and their wives who have met together for a birthday celebration in the residence of a minor diplomat in a Spanish town. The assassins are looking for the president, but he fails to attend the party, so they take the entire gathering hostage instead, including the famous soprano who had been booked to sing at the party. Subsequently, women and children are released, but the diva misses the moment, and the captors decide that she is worth keeping in order to strengthen their demands.
Music, and opera singing, infuse this novel, and becomes the motivation of many of the events and decisions within the group of hostages, and indeed some of the captors.
The seriousness of the situation, and the humour used to describe the everyday life inside the house, (they all settle down to a comfortable routine) make a curious combination, which wouldn't be to everyone's taste. I enjoyed the book, but was not carried away by it, hence the four stars.
I first read this when it won the Costa, and found it very week and weedy. So maybe now I am coming to it with fewer expectations. For whatever reason I found it easier to take it on it's own terms, and enjoy the fact that it subverts the hostage/heist-movie expectations that the dynamic beginning sets up. So its quite gentle, and wombles around, and ends improbably with people coupled up, but this time I found this an enjoyable ride, I believed the characters (essential for me) and I was happy to go along with it.
This is a very humourous read in parts and follows the story of a group of terrorists and their hostages. Because they are locked up together, relationships are formed and personalities change. Everyone is trying to survive. Its very well done and very clever. I have listened to the author on the radio discussing this book and I have a greater understanding of why she did certain things.
I would give 4.5 but i can't so it has to be 4. 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.
As the blurb says a literary book with excitement. I didn't guess ( and didn't want to ) what was going to happen. More said would spoil the excitement of the book. Blurbs often give too much away and spoil the book. Read it . Will it become a classic ? Probably not
I was totally captivated by Ann patchett's artful weaving of this story, which centres on a few very appealing characters caught in an extraordinary situation. In my view, the ending is a bit clumsy but I saw where she was coming from. I think she was probably a bit in love with some of her characters, herself.