Bel Canto

By: Ann Patchett

I’m still not sure about this one. Have you ever read a book where you are a bit wary of where things are going the whole time? I wondered with this one. I kept waiting for the story to really start, but little did I know that it had already started and I was fully immersed in it.

So what’s the plot overview, you ask? Well, it takes place somewhere in South America. There is a party at the home of the country’s vice president. The party is in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. They have invited Mr. Hosokawa’s favorite opera singer, Roxanne Coss, to sing at his party—meaning he cannot refuse the invite. They are hosting this party because they want the Japanese business man to invest in business in their country.

From there, the story really begins when a band of rebel fighters invades the party and holds the entire group hostage. They thought the president of the country was to be in attendance, but he was not. From there, the rebels’ plan goes awry and they have to revise their strategy.

I can’t say too much more than that about the plot because I’d be giving away the highlights of the book—although at the time, I didn’t realize they were the highlights.

This book was different from most other novels I’ve read. I really hadn’t a clue where this was going. I mean there were a few different scenarios running through my head, but I was pretty off. It is a story that really focuses more on how the people cope in this situation than it does the situation. The situation plays a big role, but that’s not the point.

I won’t lie to you and say I loved this book. It had its slow moments. I did not fly through it. And I found myself frustrated with the pace at times. But I think that is sort of what Patchett wants you to feel. She is trying to bring you into the hostages’ world and how slowly it moves.

Maybe I would have gotten into this book if I had connected with the characters more. For some reason, I just didn’t absorb and click with their personalities. However, it’s not for lack of personality. The main characters certainly had them. Perhaps that was the reader’s flaw in not opening up enough to them.

Lastly, I want to warn you about the ending. I didn’t like it. I actually got to the end and kept double-checking that I hadn’t missed pages or that there weren’t more somehow hidden. That couldn’t be the ending I told myself. It was. And I was not happy. Not that I need a “happy ending” by any means. I just need an ending that makes sense to me. This one did not. Maybe that was Patchett’s goal—to have the reader asking “how did that happen?” But it also left me saying: I won’t be running out to buying another book written by Ann Patchett. Sorry.


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