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48 of 49 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

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No magic for me
I had never heard of Bel Canto despite it being short listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction, nor had I heard of Ann Patchett before this was chosen as my Book Group Book of the Month. As I do every month, I ordered a used copy of the book from Amazon and couldn't wait to make a start.

I quite often find I read my monthly Book Group book too quickly so that by...
Published 16 months ago by Lucy Literati


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful - one of my favourites, 14 July 2007
By 
A. G. Robbins "celestial being" (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
Ann Patchett skilfully built up the mood, the atmosphere, the characters and the story, so that I found myself totally wrapped up in the book. The pace is slow, no detail is missed, and yet it is a riveting read. I agree with other reviewers who have said that she makes you feel like you are one of the people in that house. It was a strange sensation, this detachment from the outside world and the "fishbowl" feeling that it brought. A most unusual scenario and story, and yet it works perfectly. Don't expect big action scenes, but be prepared to be bowled over by the insightfulness of this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Escapism in terrorism, 31 Aug 2009
By 
J. Cronin "dudara" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
In an unnamed South American country, a birthday dinner party is being held in honour of a Japanese industrialist. Prominent political and industrial guers are in attendance, while Roxanne Coss, a famous opera singer, enthralls the crowd with her virtuoso performance.

Little do they know until the lights go out, that a rag-tag group of terrorists plan to use the President as a hostage. Unfortunately, the President stayed at home to watch his favourite soap opera, leaving the terrorists with a major flaw in their plans.

Patchett moves the focal point of the story between the hostages and the terrorists, revealing the good and bad in each. The 58 hostages have no common language, other than the glorious music provided by Roxanne and the pianist. As they spend many months together trapped in the Vice-Presidential house, the lines between hostages and terrorists becomes blurred. Patchett beautifully builds the tension and the eerie feeling of suspended reality within the palace.

Bel Canto is an elegantly written book which shows the noble side of human nature. Like other books set in South America, she captures a dreamy, escapist atmosphere most excellently.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, 10 Dec 2005
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
Another reading group choice and one that held my interest; this despite being told what happens in the end during the opening chapter. Set in a South American embassy, the assembled group are taken hostage and is the story of how both hostage and "terrorist" endure their enforced captivity and the unexpected unions that take place. Even though the end was a known outcome, it was nevertheless such a surprise. A difficult book to get hold of but worth the effort.
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a novel about a South American hostage crisis, 10 April 2012
By 
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
If you're thinking about buying this book, because you're interested in South American politics/ society/ literature, or because you're expecting to read a gripping "John le Carré style" thriller, don't. I think you'll be disappointed. However, if you want to read a sensitive, almost philosophical, tale of friendship and love found in the most unlikeliest of places, then this book might be for you.

The premise is simple: half a dozen South American terrorists take a large number of wealthy businessmen, their wives and a famous opera singer hostage, while they attend a birthday party hosted in the Vice-Presidential palace in honor of opera buff and CEO Mr Hosokawa (in case this scenario sounds vaguely familiar to you, the author has admitted that the "Japanese embassy" hostage crisis in Peru in the late 1990s inspired her to write this book).
While, I agree with certain reviewers that some of the elements of the story are slightly unbelievable (I too have a hard time believing that absolutely all the men- with one notable exception- would fall in love with opera singer Roxanne Coss or that people would not get at least a little annoyed by her singing after months and months of being stuck in the same house with her), I would argue that this does not hurt the novel.

Patchett is very effective in getting you to empathize with her varied cast of characters (which in my opinion are very well drawn and developed and some of who you will not easily forget) and you will dread the inevitable ending, hoping against hope that the fragile society that hostages and terrorists have built might be "preserved" in some way and that things will turn out alright in the end.

One small criticism I would like to voice relates to the epilogue, which I found slightly "off key" and not strictly necessary, in my opinion.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that touches the soul, 13 Feb 2003
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
Having just finished this book for our local book club I feel my life enriched in the same way I feel when I hear a beautiful piece of music.
It is one of the few book that we have all enjoyed although all for different reasons. A number of criticisms have been made of the book one of them being that the plot was contrived. On one level it was contrived but read on another level it seems to me that this book is like an opera; it is the beauty of the writing, the sound of the authors voice and complexity of the characters that count. Many of the characters seem to be stereo types but then complexities are revealed in each one and the writer dares you to fall in love with them.
In our club we all described our favourite scene and all had different ones and different images of such scenes. We all then had fun casting roles for the film that hopefully will one day be made. I just hope the film lives up to the beauty of this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bel Canto - all about love and passion, 19 Jun 2007
This review is from: Bel Canto (Hardcover)
This is one of the best books I have read for ages. Bel Canto is about love and passion, of every sort. Love of art, love of family, love of simple pleasures and the love between a man and a woman are all in this wonderful book. If you know nothing about opera it teaches you a bit about it through the characters which are excellently written. The love that grows between people who are thrown together through unexpected circumstances is written so brilliantly it surprised me I had never read this wonderful author before. Buy this book, you won't be disappointed!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!, 7 April 2005
By 
C L Fanstone (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
This book is beautifully written and from the first moment engages you in the beauty of opera, singing and the surroundings. I loved the developing relationships between the characters and felt the gentle story suited the style of writing. I was so wrapped up in the lives of the people in the house that the ending took days to recover from. Very upsetting but realistic and made for an unforgettable experience. I would never normally read Ann Patchett, but this was recommended to me, and now I recommend it to you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Like a beautiful opera aria, 6 Aug 2014
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
This is the kind of book that I want to describe only using superlatives. It is about a hostage situation: terrorists burst into a prestigious birthday party for a Japanese CEO, intending to kidnap the president. Unfortunately, he stayed at home that night to watch his favourite soap opera, so they have to settle for a group of international business men, and a world-famous opera singer. The book is about the complex relationships that form between the hostages and the kidnappers, and artfully creates sympathy for all the characters involved.

Opera is woven throughout, and the whole book felt to me like a ‘Bel Canto’, a beautiful aria that you never want to end. Every sentence felt like a wonderful melody. I thought a book about hostages might be brutal, but it was tragic rather than traumatic, like a good Puccini opera. The ending was both expected and unexpected, and so exquisitely crafted. I now want to read all of her other books.

A sample of her wordcraft:

“The house seemed to rise up like a boat caught inside the wide arm of a wave and flip onto its side. Silverware flew into the air, the tines of forks twisting against knife blades, vases smashed into walls. People slipped, fell, ran, but only for an instant, only until their eyes readjusted to the light and they saw the utter uselessness of their fight.”

This is a real favourite – one of my books of the year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pigeon prompt, 14 Feb 2010
By 
J. Stuart - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
Amazing, brilliant, spectacular - and the book was good too. This was one of the choices at my local book club and when I first ordered it and it didn't come I wasn't too bothered until the meeting date came near. Then I emailed the dispatcher and wow! immediate kind reply and book arrived next day, sent before they checked out reason why first book never arrived. Not everyone at the club liked the book, some found it boring but I think its one of the best modern explorations of human relationships I've read.
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Bel Canto
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (Paperback - Aug 2005)
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