The backstory: Bel Canto won the Orange Prize in 2002. Ann Patchett's latest novel, State of Wonder, was my favorite read of 2011. In 2012, I'm reading all of her backlist, beginning with Bel Canto.
The basics: In a South American country, the vice president hosts a birthday party for a Japanese businessman to entice him into building a factory in their country. Mr. Hosokawa has no intention of building a factory there, but attends because Roxane Coss, his favorite opera soprano will perform for his birthday. When terrorists arrive to kidnap the president, who did not attend, they are instead left with many other hostages.
My thoughts: Ann Patchett and I clearly share a fascination for how people react in extraordinary situations and the depth of humanity. In Bel Canto, the terrorists are as human as the hostages, and I found myself illogically rooting for them at times. In many ways, this novel is the story of Mr. Hosokawa and Roxane Coss, but Gen, Mr. Hosokawa's translator, stole the book. Gen is Japanese but fluent in numerous languages: "Sitting alone in his apartment with books and tapes, he would pick up languages the way other men picked up women, with smooth talk and then later, passion." Most importantly, he was able to translate for all of hostages. The hostages were an intriguing motley crew of people from around the world. Through Gen, they found ways to communicate. A shared love of Roxane's singing transcended language and provided unity.
Favorite passage: "Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. Don’t you think? It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.:
The verdict: Bel Canto is a wonderful, thought-provoking, invigorating novel that examines the humanity in all of us. It is a fascinating story of hostages and captors, but it's also more. This novel is a celebration of the arts and the human spirit.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 352 pages
Publication date: May 22, 2001
Source: I bought it for my Kindle
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