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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read!
I've just finished Bel Canto and logged on to buy more Ann Patchett. I wasn't intending to submit a review until I saw some of the negative ones here! So what did I like about the novel?
Firstly, Patchett can write. She can also control a novel's development. After 50 pages I was being drawn in but also resenting the focus seeming to be solely on the hostages...
Published on 21 Sep 2002

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to love it but hated it
Selected for our book club after we all liked 'Run' I so wanted to like this. Struggled a third of the way through then gave up. Boring. Didn't care about any of the unbelievable characters. No sense of place portrayed. Don't waste your time.
Published 9 months ago by Tulip


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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read!, 21 Sep 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
I've just finished Bel Canto and logged on to buy more Ann Patchett. I wasn't intending to submit a review until I saw some of the negative ones here! So what did I like about the novel?
Firstly, Patchett can write. She can also control a novel's development. After 50 pages I was being drawn in but also resenting the focus seeming to be solely on the hostages. However, what gathers pace as you read on is the emergence of the individuals among the young captors. This might not be to everyone's sympathies but for me Patchett avoids sentimentality while showing us the potential other lives of the youngsters involved in the hostage-taking.
I also enjoyed the way Patchett handled the complexities of what might have been a cliche, as the emotional needs of captors and hostages inter-twine. And although I have next to no interest in opera, I was impressed with how she used the power of song to reveal depths previously unknown to the characters themselves.
Unlike some previous reviewers I was struck by her characterisation, including the sense that some of the more minor figures had inner lives that might be developed further - this might also be a slight frustration, as with the priest, for example, who almost slides out of view. But that may be Patchett undermining our expectations.
And finally, I have no problem with the ending. There's one aspect of the outcome that we have always known and another that is a surprise but makes emotional sense. What more do you want?
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 12 Oct 2005
By 
DevJohn01 (Somerset, NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
`BELL CANTO' is not the type of novel that I would typically read, much less enjoy, however when I purchased it I was expecting something completely different. What I was expecting was the story about political leaders and prominent businessmen being taken hostage by a terrorist group and the way that they are overthrown (sort of like `Die Hard'). Well....it is a story about political leaders and prominent businessmen (and one of the worlds most talented opera singers) being taken hostage. But it was also a story about love and relationships and the bonds that can be formed between people regardless of race, class, gender or even language.
Okay, I'll admit that it did take me while to get into this book. Maybe because it wasn't what I what I expected or maybe because I didn't quite know where the story was going. But once I did start getting into it I fell in love with the story and how the hostages related to their captors, how the hostages formed friendships with one another despite speaking completely different languages and how they all created their own little world which everyone, hostages and terrorists alike, truly began to enjoy.
I read many of the other reviews of `BELL CANTO' on this site as I always do after I finish a book and noticed that there were many that were less than flattering. And I must say that it is very unfortunate that a few misplaced commas can ruin some peoples experience in reading a story. I enjoyed Ann Patchetts novel for the beauty of the story not for the grammar or editing. Admittedly these are important aspects of a novel but, for me, they do not make or break story, which is why this is one time that I am definitely glad that I did wait until after I was finished with this book to read its reviews. I would not have wanted my experience ruined by searching for grammatical errors!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Go on & read all of her books, 13 Aug 2003
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
I usually avoid books shortlisted for major awards as the hype irritates me, but I did read Bel Canto and was very pleased too! She's a wonderfully elegant writer, deftly sketching in human relationships and building dramatic tension very subtly. I thought the unlikely terrorist leader in this was a superb creation and the mini-tragedies that play out are enthralling. The scenario sounds implausible, but was a skilful way to create an environment artificially isolated from the real world in which the author can experiment with her characters. Very impressive and very surely handled - but don't just read the prizewinner - get your hands on her other books too, particularly the Magician's Assistant
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing ending, 19 Oct 2007
By 
LindyLouMac (Wales and Italy) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
A great story with a disappointing ending, in fact for me the epilogue was a complete let down. Although I do appreciate it was a difficult story to write an ending for! Up until about the last ten pages or so it was a beautifully told story of the bonds that developed between the hostages and their terrorist kidnappers, despite the many differences in race, culture and language.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best novels i've read, 18 Aug 2004
By 
Joe Sherry (Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
Bel Canto is set in an unnamed South American country. The novel opens at a birthday part for a Japanese business man, Mr. Hosokawa, who was wooed to that country for the chance to hear his favorite opera singer, Roxane Coss, sing for him. This is a major event for this South American country, and the Vice President is there (the President declined so he could watch his daily soap opera) and is holding the event at his home. Several other diplomatic officials, priests, and executives from Hosokawa's company are there. Most of the people at this party do not speak the same language. When Coss finishes her last song, the lights go out. When the lights come back on, the building has been taken over by terrorists.
This is only the opening of the novel. This begins a stand off lasting several months between the terrorists and the government of the country. But while the stand off provides the structure to the novel, the heart of it is inside that house. The novel is truly about the relationships between the hostages and also the relationships with the terrorists. Mr. Hosokawa does not go anywhere without his interpreter (he does a lot of international business), so Gen (the interpreter) was by his side at the party. Gen becomes a major player in the house because he is the only one who can communicate between the Spanish speaking terrorists, the Swiss negotiator outside the house, and the hostages who speak various languages (French and Russian, are the two that I can remember).
As the novel progresses, Patchett reveals the disparate cast of characters and who they are and how they came to be at this party. We see deeper into the lives of Hosokawa, Roxane Coss, the Vice President, the French Ambassador, and several others. This makes for an incredibly rich novel and Patchett provides an emotional depth to the work that I had not expected.
I was initially reluctant to read Bel Canto. I didn't think the topic sounded that interesting, but as it stayed on bestsellers lists and as I encountered more and more positive reviews, I finally decided to give it a chance. I am so glad that I did. This is one of the best novels that I have read this year.
-Joe Sherry
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No real malice, just a bullet a few inches out of place, 5 May 2010
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
A celebrated soprano, Roxanne Coss, has been persuaded to sing at the birthday party of a mega-rich Japanese businessman. She travels with her own accompanist and he, Mr Hosokawa, with his translator. He is a lifelong fan of Coss and it is his only indulgence to try to make his business trips correspond with venues where she is due to appear. She has been offered so much money to attend this birthday party (to which the great and the good of the host country have been asked), that she feels she cannot refuse, but oddly enough, hardly any Japanese people, let alone his wife and family are invited.

The host country (never named, but must functionally be Central American, therefore pick your own - I chose Nicaragua) is unstable, there are at least two groups of rebels hiding out in the jungle, and on the night of Coss's performance, three revolutionary generals and a motley collection of adolescent soldiers, take the whole party hostage in the magnificent house of the Vice President, Rueben Iglesias.

An interesting scenario which Patchett develops without urgency and with a number of often delightfully unexpected situations. The felicitous plot, however, is somewhat improbable and strains credibility when the rebels become complicit, tamed by the voice of Roxanne Coss, in an almost wholly benign regime within the grounds and the house, leading to a number of interesting relationships. Of course, though, it cannot end happily.

I liked the unhurried style and panache with which Patchett writes and because she develops the characters so well, I wanted it all to end well. But it wasn't the ending that let the novel down - it was the codicil. Still - ignore that and it is a very good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly read story full of interesting characters., 25 April 2006
By 
G. E. Langridge (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bel Canto (Audio CD)
I listen to audio books while driving to work and of all the books I have heard so far this is undoubtedly the best.

The story is very much character-driven and the narrator captures the voices of all the different characters brilliantly. I felt as if I got to know them and care about them and I had a growing sense of loss as the story progressed that it would soon be over.

Parts of the story are more graphic than I would normally like, for example in describing the treatment of an injury. But I found that I couldn't bring myself to skip past that section as I had to know what happened to the characters.

I did not want the story to finish and I found the final ending slightly disappointing. This did not spoil the experience for me though as the whole story is still very much alive in my memory.

It is now several months since I listened to the discs. In the meantime I have listened to other stories and forgotten them but this one stays with me. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy reading with a surprising twist, 21 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
Patchett paces this novel beautifully and as the story unfolds the reader is drawn ever more deeply into the relationships which form between the main characters making it difficult to put this book down. If you like a thoughtfully observed yet gentle story this is a book for you. The ending comes as a surprise yet makes perfect sense as a conclusion to the story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So good I read it twice!, 1 Jun 2009
By 
A. Washington (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
Never before have I finished a book, turned back to the beginning and started again. In this extraordinary book Ann Patchett describes the nobler side of human nature in what ought to be terrible circumstances. A bungled kidnap turns into a long-term hostage situation. The hostages are men, all leaders in their field, and one exceptional woman, an opera singer, whose voice transcends the multitude of factors that should divide those confined together. Relationships develop between the hostages themselves and between the hostages and their captors, most of whom don't speak the same language. It is a rare book. It elevates humanity, showing how even those under enormous stress can show great courage and consideration for their fellow man. It made me laugh and cry - both times - and it has a great twist at the end! I'm sure I'll read it again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Draws you in expertly, 20 July 2008
By 
E. Brock (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
My turn to choose a book for the Book Club. A friend who lives and works in Texas recommended this as one of the best liked books her Book Club had read.
A slow burn at the beginning you are drawn into the world of the hostages and the hostage takers. The pace alters with the action and the writing allows you to picture the scene and understand bit by bit the characters and their subtle personalities.
Intriguing how te interpreter worked and was able to convey thought, threats and endearments between characters with a professional distance whhich sets him apart.
Without doubt I will be reading more of Pratchett.
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Bel Canto
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (Hardcover - Jun 2001)
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