B: Bel Canto

By Sarah Beningfield

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is the kind of book that is full of the unexpected. It is packed with action, romance and suspense.

Based on a true story, the novel takes place in an unnamed South American country, beginning with the birthday party of the owner of the biggest electronic company in Japan, Mr Hosokawa. The entire party is listening, captivated to the beautiful voice of opera singer Roxanne Coss, as she performs for them live. What they do not expect is the terrorist group who soon burst in and take the entire party hostage.

The rest of the novel take place over the next several months following the terrorists taking the guests hostage. It relays certain guests being released and then follows the story of those who remain. Those who are kept because they are the most important and because the terrorists wish to release them only if the authorities give them the president of the unnamed country, in which the story takes place, in return.

bel canto

The reader soon gets to know both the terrorists and the hostages intimately and it becomes difficult to hate the terrorists once they are portrayed as people with feelings, and not just ‘the bad guys’. Two romances begin to bloom, one between Mr Hosokawa and the opera singer Roxanne Coss. They bond over their mutual love for, and knowledge of, opera. The other romance is between Mr Hosokawa’s translator Gen Watanabe and one of the terrorists Carmen. This relationship takes place entirely in secret as the terrorists and hostages are not supposed to interact. However, this rule falls apart in many ways, with the two sides becoming almost friendly over the course of the novel. Meanwhile the authorities in the outside world send them food and supplies, and grow steadily more frustrated with the situation.

The novel is written beautifully and the ending will catch you by surprise and leave you numb, with all of your emotions in turmoil.

A memorable quote from the novel: “Wearing shoes in the house was barbaric. There was almost as much indignity in wearing shoes in the house as there was in being kidnapped.”

Readers who would enjoy this: Anybody who enjoys a novel that is written exceptionally and which is unexpected and unique in every chapter will enjoy Bel Canto.

Other books by this author:
State of Wonder
This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage

Other books beginning with ‘B’:
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
Beloved – Toni Morrison

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