I have just finished reading Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. It was a beautiful read. It was unlike anything I have read before – from the plot to the narrative. I can’t say that I’m completely satisfied with how the book concludes but maybe after speaking with other people who have read it, my opinion will change.
I sincerely was blown away from the storyline. We are introduced to the multitude of characters: Mr. Hosokawa, Gen, Roxane Coss, Simon Thibault, Father Arguedas, Ruben Iglesias and etc. You jump around through their thoughts and how exactly they view the situation around them. The plot truly begins at the international party for Mr. Hosokawa’s birthday where the famous opera singer, Roxane Coss, has been hired to perform as his gift. It is at this party that a terrorist group comes and holds the party hostage. The guests are held captive for months and much like any social experiment, learn to adapt to their current living situation. You see the initial terror of the hostage situation slowly decrease. Unintentionally, the guests of the party gone terribly wrong begin to surrender to their present circumstance. Rather than count the days until they are returned to their lives, they begin to accept their present situation as their lives. They all, whether they realized it or not, began to stop thinking of their past and discontinue thinking of their future. Even as the reader, despite logically knowing that a hostage situation has to end in either one way or the other, you hope against hope that things turn out in a way that everyone gets what they want. You hope that the romances built and developed in this terrible circumstances out of pure serendipity manage to last the test of time and the series of obstacles presented to them.
The major theme of the novel was opera. Even from the name meaning “beautiful song or beautiful singing,” you know that music will be the theme. Amongst all of the chaos and tragedy, opera proves to be the only shining beacon of hope throughout the book. Roxane’s voice manages to wash over the hostages and allow them to surrender their fears and worries. Through her voice and opera itself, they are all transported to a place of peace.
This book was a recommendation from a friend and it was a delightful read. Words cannot accurately describe the skill with which Patchett is able to provide insight from every character’s perspective without any awkward transitions and while showing all angles to a situation. I would recommend this book to all young readers, lovers of opera or music, or pretty much anyone.