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Reviews of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto

by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett X
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
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  • First Published:
    May 2001, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2002, 336 pages

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Book Summary

'Combining an unerring instinct for telling detail with the broader brushstrokes you need to tackle issues of culture and politics, Patchett creates a remarkably compelling chronicle of a multinational group of the rich and powerful held hostage for months.'

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.

Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had ever known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music is the only common language. 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.

Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto engenders in the reader the very passion for art and the language of music that its characters discover. As a reader, you find yourself fervently wanting this captivity to continue forever, even though you know that real life waits on the other side of the garden wall. Bel Canto is a virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers. It is a novel to be cherished.

Chapter One

When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her. Maybe he had been turning towards her just before it was completely dark, maybe he was lifting his hands. There must have been some movement, a gesture, because every person in the living room would later remember a kiss. They did not see a kiss, that would have been impossible. The darkness that came on them was startling and complete. Not only was everyone there certain of a kiss, they claimed they could identify the type of kiss: it was strong and passionate, and it took her by surprise. They were all looking right at her when the lights went out. They were still applauding, each on his or her feet, still in the fullest throes of hands slapping together, elbows up. Not one person had come anywhere close to tiring. The Italians and the French were yelling, "Brava! Brava!" and the Japanese turned away from them. Would he have kissed her like that had the room been lit? Was his mind so full of her that in the very ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
Introduction

"How much does a house know?"

In the vice president's mansion in an unnamed South American country, a lavish party is taking place to celebrate the birthday of a visiting Japanese businessman. An American opera singer is entertaining the guests, dignitaries and high-ranking officials from around the world, when suddenly the room is plunged into darkness. Terrorists invade the mansion and set in motion a series of events that irrevocably alters the life of every person involved.

For Mr. Hosokawa, the Japanese businessman in whose honor the party is thrown, the time in captivity is rife with paradox. He never had any intention of doing business with the host country and so feels guilty for having accepted the ...
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  • award image

    Women's Prize for Fiction
    2002

  • award image

    PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
    2002

Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Combining an unerring instinct for telling detail with the broader brushstrokes you need to tackle issues of culture and politics, Patchett creates a remarkably compelling chronicle of a multinational group of the rich and powerful held hostage for months.... Even more compelling are the protective, almost familial affections that arise, the small acts of kindness in what is, inevitably, a tragedy. Brilliant.

Library Journal
In this tale by the author of such critically praised works as The Magician's Assistant, a terrorist takeover at an embassy party throws together an American diva and a Japanese CEO who is one of her biggest fans.

Publishers Weekly
This fluid and assured narrative, inspired by a real incident, demonstrates her growing maturity and mastery of form as she artfully integrates a musical theme within a dramatic story.

Author Blurb Madison Smartt Bell
Bel Canto has all the qualities one has come to expect from a classic Ann Patchett novel grace, beauty, elegance, and magic.

Reader Reviews

Cathryn Conroy

This Book Is Pure Genius—A Real Treasure!
If all you do is read the plot summary of this book—in an unnamed South American country, terrorists storm the birthday party of a Japanese electronics executive in a botched attempt to kidnap that country's president—you would never know that this ...   Read More
Louise

Bel Canto
Loved, loved loved this book. So many meaningful passages that provoke one yo think of their own past love(s). Will read again-to catch all of Ann Patchett's subtle nuances!
Sheila Balls

Bel Canto
Not until the last page does a character think about marrying for love and he casts this age old saying into a new light. This book causes us to examine love in its different kinds between characters caught in a strange existence. For some, there is ...   Read More
Fahd Imam, period 4 AP english

Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
In Bel Canto, Patchett seamlessly combines action, romance and a high level of maturity to produce an amazing fictional novel that truly deserves winning the PEN/Faulkner award and Orange Prize for Fiction. It is Patchett’s best work and one that ...   Read More

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