Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

I had to read Ann Patchett's The Patron Saint of Liars for school and I loved it so much, I immediately went to the library and got as many books of hers that I could find. And I have to say, I think Bel Canto is actually my favorite.

So, various fancy diplomats and businessman are attending the birthday party of a Japanese businessman that is being held at the house of the Vice-President of an unspecified South American country. Then terrorists storm in and try to capture the president of said country, except that he is at home watching his soaps. So then they just take everyone at the party hostage for what turns out to be about three months.

And where some books would have the confined hostages start sharing personal secrets and the worst of human nature coming out, Bel Canto just has people being awkward and then making friends and playing chess and practicing opera and having sex with fellow hostages and, sometimes, captors. It is all very polite and genteel. I don't know if that's very realistic, but then again I have never been a hostage in an unspecified South American country.

I don't make it sound very exciting but it's full of funny little moments and revelations and sweet characters moments and then it ENDS HORRIBLY. I don't want to give any spoilers but if it starts with terrorist taking hostages, then you know it's not going to end well. So there's that.

And Ann Patchett is such a good writer that she makes everything really quiet and subtle but imbued with lots of meaning. I wish I could describe it better. But it's a beautiful book and sometimes I like to read books that aren't all in your face with INTENSITY.


  1. Personally I love quiet and subtle, Somehow Ann Patchett had never made it to my priority list, but you've just changed that.

  2. Did you know Bel Canto was based on a real incident in Peru? I'm with you, however, it didn't seem very realistic to me, mainly because I can't see it being allowed to go on and on here.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your review.


  3. Yeah, I read that somewhere. It's incredibly weird to think of something like that really happening--although I'm sure Patchett only loosely based Bel Canto on the real events.