Friday, February 15, 2013

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett.  New York: Harper-Collins, 2001. e-book, 265 pps.

Bel Canto is an excellent book.  I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did.  From the first moment, I was captivated by the almost lyrical language and the characters in the grand room of the vice president in a South American country.  There is a Japanese man whose birthday it is, his translator, an opera singer, a pianist, and the rest of the folks in the room gathered together.  Most of them are strangers to each other, drawn together by fate.  Suddenly, a bunch of militia who are barely out of childhood and their three generals burst in.

The militia are from impoverished jungle settlements.  They speak Quechua and a patois of Quechua and Spanish.  They take over the party.  Unfortunately for them, the object of their kidnapping-- the President-- neglected to attend the party.  He had chosen instead to stay home that night and watch his favorite soap opera.

The hostages represent a mixture of languages.  The translator is the only one who can communicate with all of the other hostages and with the militia.  There is a prolonged standoff.  During that time, the hostages and the militia develop into an awkward, uneasy community.  Friendships are made and romance develops out of the enforced intimacy.

sapphoq reviews says:  I thoroughly enjoyed Bel Canto.  Ann Patchett did a fine job with the storyline and with the characters, emotional tones, and dialogues throughout this prize-winning novel.  The setting and writing style puts Bel Canto above what is usually found in chick lit.  Highly recommended for anyone who wishes to read something not based in American culture.  Although I suspect that women would enjoy this book more than most men would, I cannot help but think that men who skip this offering are missing out.

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