Bel Canto

Bel Canto

by Ann Patchett


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Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening — until a band of gunwielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060838720
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/02/2005
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 31,714
Product dimensions: 5.28(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.85(d)
Lexile: 930L (what's this?)

About the Author

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. She has won many prizes, including Britain's Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books.


Nashville, Tennessee

Date of Birth:

December 2, 1963

Place of Birth:

Los Angeles, California


B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987

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Bel Canto 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 423 reviews.
review4U More than 1 year ago
Ms Patchett has successfully extends writing techniques developed by Jose Saramago (Nobel Prize in Portugal) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you liked Blindness or One Hundred Years of Solitude you will love this book. Bel Canto is a masterpiece of writing with a very controlled technique that doesn't waver throughout the book. It tells the story of a disparate group of people taken hostage in a botched attempt to abduct the president of an unnamed South American country. The setting is the palatial home of the country's vice president where a famous soparano has come to sing as a birthday president for a Japanese industrialist. The author manages to easily juggle numerous points of view simultaneously and seamlessly so the story is told sympathetically threw the eyes of the terrorists and the hostages. The story is suspenseful but requires close reading and also workes as an unusual love story.
alias_dw More than 1 year ago
Bel Canto was a book assigned to me in a college English class focused on novels. This was the most traditional novel in the course yet the story was one of the most original. Bel Canto is a love story on every level. The plot revolves around a group of party goers taken hostage by South American rebels. The characters are complex and although they are all very different people they form close bonds, overcoming language barriers, the barrier of hostage taker and hostage, and socioeconomic barriers. Love is the catalyst that brings them together. Although this is a love story, its not a traditional love story. It is sometimes sensual but there are all kinds of love in Bel Canto. A good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Centered on the basics of Operatic Style, Bel Canto, is a well-written, passionate novel of chance. By including love, lust, and tragedy, Ann Patchett created this intense, lyrical novel. The events entailed within this novel are slightly based on true events which occurred during December 1996. For four months, 14 terrorists held hostages captive inside the Japanese Embassy of Lima, Peru. The novel depicts the passion and anger many of the hostages might have felt during those four months. The novel was directly inspired by the hostage's captivity.

Starring Opera's famous Soprano, Roxanne Coss, Bel Canto opens with a bang. Katsumi Hosokawa had been in love with Roxanne's powerful voice since he developed his love of Opera. Today, he is a powerful owner of a Japanese Electronic company. Hosokawa's birthday was that evening. He wanted to celebrate and spend the evening listening to the beautiful melodies of Roxanne's voice. Hosokawa held his party at the mansion of the Vice-President of South America. Roxanne began singing one of the many pieces found in her repertoire. When suddenly, the lights go out, and the 200 foreign diplomats soon find themselves hostages of an unlikely group of young terrorists under the command of General Benjamin.

The novel expands from that evening and continues for four months. The hostages eventually learn that they need to help one another in order to get through this crisis. The terrorists would not allow them to leave the mansion. They were watched cautiously. Many of the hostages began bonding with each other and formed friendships. Even the cold-hearted industrialist Mr. Hosokawa used his love of Opera to teach him how to socialize with other people. He forges a friendship with his idol Roxanne Coss. She also found it in her diva character to associate with other people.

Through the four months, the captives are eventually granted more privileges from the terrorists. As ironic as it may be, the terrorists also befriend their hostages. Many of the people found inside the mansion change their demeanor. Those who were once shy and timid such as Ishmael learn to let their own voice be heard. The translator Gen Watanabe also learns to speak for himself and doesn't allow the language barrier found between the 200 foreign diplomats affect him. He finds his voice among the multiple languages he communicated with.

Overall, Bel Canto is based on fate. Many of the characters were polar opposites, but with the given circumstances, they find their soul mates. Only with fate could a powerful professional man like Gen Watanabe fall in love with a young terrorist from a small village in Latin America. Destiny also brought Katsumi Hosokawa and Roxanne Coss together. Their friendship blossomed into an intense loving relationship with the hands of fate.
CinderCC More than 1 year ago
I loved this book as much as I loved the other one I read by Ann Patchett: The Magician's Assistant. I was hooked on the first page. There is love, humor, conflict, etc. The situation is very unique, and to talk about it might spoil the surprise for you. I felt a little let down by the ending, but maybe it's just because I didn't want the book to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bel Canto is beautifully written and the characters enthrall you!! This novel grabbed my attention and I became utterly consumed in the lives of these characters--which rarely happens. If you like a slower paced book and a well-written novel, then this book is well worth it.
fiorentina More than 1 year ago
This is a story that remain in your heart long after you finish the last word. A timeless classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most books have good and bad parts, but Bel Canto really had it's ups and downs. On the good side, it had some very relatable characters that you wanted the story to end well for. It was well written, and quite descriptive. On the down side, it was a decent storyline, with a quite abrupt ending. At times, the description drew on a little too long, and grew boring. Overall, it wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it wasn't a bad read either.
LostinTime More than 1 year ago
Ann Patchett is an amazingly skilled writer! Her characters are so diverse and painstakingly nuanced she has a real knack for putting the reader in the thick of it. I can see how some people may have found it boring, the 'action' of the capture happens very early in the book and is over just as quickly, but for me even though the more you learn about the characters and how their relationships with each other evolve the pages just kept flying by! I felt desperate to find out how the situation would end. This book will stay with me for a long time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really was hooked from page one of this novel. It's truly a gripping piece of literature. What I found amazing about the story was how although the characters speak different languages and come from different backgrounds, the language of music brings them together. It's quite a remarkable book. It should be apparent to anyone familiar with opera who the main character is based on. I wish the ending was different. (I never bought into the relationship that occurs.) But, it's overall one of the best novels I've read in ages.
tchrreader More than 1 year ago
I really couldn't get into this book. I tried and tried but it just didn't capture my attention, I thought it sounded good but the story was not very captivating or entertaining. This is the story of a vice President who has a birthday party. His favorite opera singer is invited to preform at the party for him. Terrorists end up arriving and taking the guests at the party hostage. I could not get into this book, it had a good idea it was just hard to read, I thought. Not recommended for fun.
Bookclub_enthusiast More than 1 year ago
Did NOT enjoy this book. I gravitated towards reading this book because it was an award winner and sounded extremely interesting. Terrorists keeping a group of strangers hostage for months, the book held promise. Stockholm syndrome was poorly explored. The characters were uninteresting. The alliances between strangers, who became more than friends, were improbable. The story plodded along to a thoroughly disappointing ending. There are many books you should read before you pick up this one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Has you thinking through the end. Fascinating and enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt like i was there. Transported to another country. Patchett is a master of setting. Also Loved how the characters developed and how their real talents and personalities were slowly revealed. Couldn't find my Puccini CD -- went out and bought a new one. Music heals. Read this book and hear the music.
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
Musically woven and told: Someone told me you can’t write a novel without first choosing a single point of view. It’s not true. Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto uses multiple viewpoints to powerful effect, riding musically over events then focusing tight on the tune of a single voice, only to twist and turn away again. Terrorism writ small in the lives of a small group of people; terrorism writ quiet in the waiting game; terrorism where terror recedes and common humanity takes over… this novel paints the characters of a very real world while keeping the details secret, because it’s not the cause or time or place that matters so much as the people. Relationships grow in a microcosm of hope where captors and hostages settle in to eat and sleep, to watch and to learn from each other. A quiet sense of foreboding intrudes like the bass beat repeated with reminders that this settling life must end. The knowledge that any ending’s going to be bad plays a haunting refrain. But the author kept me guessing right up to the final resolution; I hoped as the people hoped, felt inspired by the opera singer’s song, and dreamed a better place. In the end, a book has to close and the world has to be reopened again. The author closes Bel Canto with a curiously convincing confidence, leaving the past still playing in the eaves as the last notes rise and fall in a haunting echo. I really loved this book. Disclosure: A good friend loaned me the book in hopes I might love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mixed feelings about this book. The writing is commendable. Passages are so full-bodied that, at times, the reader is lulled into a satisfied, dream-like state. What is pictured by the mind lingers. But, the pace is so panstakingly slow and the premise so unrealistic that one loses interest in the beauty of the written word and ends up just wanting to finish the book to see what happens.
Jackie Greenberg More than 1 year ago
Great book, but the ending didn't seem true to the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first Ann Patchett book I've read and I can hardly wait to read the rest of her books. Great character development, easy to fall in love with the characters. An ending so unexpected, I should have expected it.
Randall Haight More than 1 year ago
This book was woderful to read. I hated for the last chapter to come and for the magic to be broken. It is one of the few books I have read piece by piece so I could savor it like a fine wine.
suzyd More than 1 year ago
This is one of my all time favorites. The writing is excellent. A great story cleverly told that tells of a group of hostages and their relationships with their captors. Stockholm syndrome displyaed. The characters are so real you feel as thought you are there with them.
TLeopard More than 1 year ago
This is a perfect novel.
Reader-by-Night More than 1 year ago
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett was last month's pick by my Book Club and what a great discussion it caused!! The characters are so well developed that one is 'sucked-into' the story before you realize it. An intriguing/thought-provoking tale of what happens when a group of people at a gathering are taken hostage by a group of terroists. The terrorists' plan doesn't go as planned..and a several month period passes ..and relationships between captives and captors develops. The dialogue is very believable and the storyline raises many questions such as: "If one believed one only had only a short time to live, would one make decisions that were outside of one's typical behavior?" Two-thumbs up !! Highly recommended Note: I also listened to an audiotape version of the Book which was superb.
rfbRB More than 1 year ago
I struggled to really get into this book at first, however once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed the twist of events and even liked the ending....despite the way it ended!!
wxgirlb More than 1 year ago
This book had a great start, but then toward the middle it became boring and it was extremely unrealistic. I had to read this book for my English class and it was torture. The ending was so unbelievable I thought I was going to vomit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be extremely boring. I'm surprised I finished it, it was a very repetitive, dull read. And the end was ridiculous.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My book club read this book and out of 6 , not a soul liked the booked. It was actually discussed that for the first time in in over 2 years we switch the book after starting to read it. It is that bad.