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I loved Bel Canto. I have read it before and enjoyed several other Ann Patchett books. She is able to very quickly establish a group of characters with distinct personalities. In this story, a group of people with varied backgrounds, different cultures, different ages and different reasons to be in the country, are all at a soiree with an opera singer as guest performer. A group of unhappy local people come in unexpectedly and keep the group hostage for many months. We meet individual hostages and hostage takers as they spend the time together. There are light moments of humour and deeper moments of insight into reactions from both sides. The ending is quick with an unexpected twist. Relationships unexpectedly develop. Hard to say more without giving away too much. A really good read.
As in her book The Dutch House, I found her characters to be immensely interesting and credible. I read a few reviews and some were quite scathing about her using a similar true life event for the premise of this book, as apparently this event was very political and violent. However, I don't agree with this as I feel most literature is taken from life, history and experience. Also authors, like all artists are surely allowed to use any references, resources and materials to create their art. This book didn't use any names or places to indicate that it was connected. It was beautifully written, captivating, interesting, humorous at times and a joy to read.
This novel was so good I feared it ending. Written so well that I now appreciate things more than previous to this book. A real story of the type of life we want being not what we think. During a COVID-19 lockdown I can think of no better book than this. It was so good I don't want to tell my peers to read it in case they offend me by not loving it.
I picked this book by accident but it was terrific. The hostages and the terrorists find each others’ humanity in this story that is a good one to read while you’re in lockdown. It’s a kind of parable I think, with a hopeful message. Great characterisations, wonderful writing, a real gem.
Roxanne Coss, an opera singer at the height of her powers performs for dignitaries in a banana republic. Revolutionaries take everyone hostage and make demands. As the days stretch into weeks, kidnappers and hostages form mesmerising friendships and bonds. This was far less about the state of tension, and much more about psychology and character and it all centred around Roxanne and her spectacular voice. The writing and insights were beautiful, and the story delightful and charming yet gripping and devastating.
Ann Patchett is an author that I have heard of but had never read any of her books. This book was recommended by a friend (whose taste I admire) and coincided with the author's latest book receiving some very positive marketing. So it's fair to say that I had high expectations. 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.
Enchanting story, told wonderfully. Read the negative reviews from those who expected a conventional action thriller and were disappointed. In fact this book is something far, far better. It has its tensions, but these are much more subtle as the characters and their relationships unfold in strange circumstances. And if you like music, especially opera, you are in for a rare treat.
I have been wanting to read this since it first won the Orange Prize and it has taken me ten years to get round to it. I have read it in about three days, which is unusual, but it became compulsive reading. 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.