Friday, 4 November 2011

Bel Canto

Autumn seems to be whizzing by but I've taken the time to enjoy my yellow pom-pom chrysanthemums and Ann Patchett's highly original novel Bel Canto. (Thanks for the recommendation Becca!)

Mr Hosokawa is a prominent Japanese businessman. Although work takes up most of his life he has had a passion for opera since his father took him to see Verdi's Rigoletto as a child. A birthday party is held in his honour at the home of the vice-president and the opera singer Roxanne Coss has been engaged to sing for the guests.

While the guests are enthralled by the soprano's beautiful voice the house is captured by armed freedom fighters and the guests are held hostage. Eventually the women are released - with the exception of Roxanne Cross - and all of the men, who include prominent diplomats and politicians, are held. A stand-off develops with the police circling the house with loudspeakers and the gunmen refusing to negotiate until their demands are met.

During the siege, relationships between the hostages and terrorists develop and change. Men whose lives normally revolve around work and terrorists devoted to their cause begin to develop their passions for music and chess and there is even a 'hostages v terrorists' football match!

I've just given the briefest outline of the plot because I don't want to introduce spoilers but what I love about this novel is the way Ann Patchett writes about opera. It reminded me a little of Willa Cather's writing about a perfomance of Casta Diva in My Mortal Enemy. I've already started Ann Patchett's latest novel State of Wonder and I can't put it down.

16 comments:

Sunday Taylor said...

Nicola, I read Bel Canto and loved it. I am so happy to hear that you are enjoying her newest book. I will read it now based on your recommendation.
xx Sunday

thecaptivereader said...

Ann Patchett seems to be one of those authors who elicts very strong positive or negative reactions. Like you, I loved Bel Canto in large part because of how she wrote about opera. I also love any book that isolates people from their usual society, whether they be hostages in a mansion or, as in State of Wonder, doctors in the remote Amazon. I flew through State of Wonder and loved it even more than Bel Canto so I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it so far!

Darlene said...

I can still hear a customer's voice as she walked into the library and told me how much she loved this book. It was yonks ago but she was that enthusiastic! Still haven't read it but it's not going anywhere so one of these days...

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

Another person who enjoyed Bel Canto, though yet to read another Ann Patchett. Thank you for rmeinding me about this book.

theduckthief said...

I was forced to read this book for school and fell in love with it! This is a great book and I really like your new template.

Anbolyn (Gudrun's Tights) said...

I know so many people who love this novel, but I've never read it or any fiction by Patchett. I do love her non-fiction title Truth & Beauty, though, and admire her writing so I think I would enjoy her novels as well.

Aarti said...

I've had this book on my shelf forever but have yet to read it. So many people love it, so I'm not sure why I keep passing it up on my shelf. Eventually :-)

Shelley said...

Yellow is my favorite color. It doesn't seem to come across well on some websites, but on yours, not only is your writing vivid, but also your mums! This is a unique place, alight with color.

As for Cather: I don't know that I've ever gotten over the chill of My Mortal Enemy. The only fiction scarier is "Paul's Case," which makes my blood run cold!

LizF said...

I have a copy of Bel Canto but still haven't got round to reading it however I did read State of Wonder earlier this year and was mesmerised by it!

lifeonthecutoff said...

I loved Bel Canto! My book discussion group read it several years ago and we enjoyed a most marvelous discussion of it. State of Wonder has come up as a future read, in large part because of Bel Canto, and I will read it whether we do as a group or not.

Bel Canto has stayed with me all these years since. If I'm not mistaken, it was loosely based on an actual event. Your wonderful review here makes me want to pick it up and read it again. Much thanks.

Karen K. said...

I really liked Bel Canto too -- and of course you know it was based on an actual event, a horrible hostage crisis at the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Peru back in the late 1990s. I have some other Ann Patchett on the TBR shelves but I still haven't read any of them.

And I'll have to look for My Mortal Enemy as well! I have quite a stack of unread Cathers also.

Becca said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this. After reading State of Wonder, I want to read it again myself!

Cathy at PotterJotter said...

Responding as an artist first and reader second ... I see you chose Halloween colours for this post! Sounds like another must read.

Kathleen said...

Sounds like an interesting read... I must check it out. Thanks!

debbie bailey said...

I LOVED Bel Canto and have State of Wonder on my TBR shelf. Now I'm looking forward to reading it even more since you said you can't put it down.

Vintage Reading said...

Sunday, SOW is an ambitious novel but hugely enjoyable. I'm going to order Patchett's earlier novels, now.

captivereader, I thought Patchett brilliantly evoked the Amazon and I loved the character of Dr Swenson. I think I'll read The Magician's Assistant next.

Darlene, I used to work in a library and loved the interaction with other readers. I envy your job!

Joan, I didn't know so many of the bloggers I visit had read BC. I must have missed the reviews!

theduckthief, I don't think I would have been mature enough to have appreciated this book at school! It is great, though.

Anbolyn, Patchett is a new-to-me author, too. I do love it when you discover a new writer whose voice speaks to you.

Aarti, oh I have some shelf-sitters, too. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks springs to mind ...

Shelley, I had to throw the mums out today, such a shame cut flowers don't last. I really want to read more Cather.

LizF, I can't decide which of the two I like best. BC is highly original and SOW is a real page-turner.

life on the cutoff, I'm going to recommend BC to my book group, too. I didn't know it was based on a real event. I think I'm a besotted Patchett fan now!

KarenK, I'm going to research the actual hostage event, now. I wasn't aware of it. I'm ordering some earlier Patchett titles, too.

Becca, yes I may re-read, too, because I loved all the Amazonian detail!

Cathy, my colour choice was compleletely unintentional, too!

Kathleen, highly recommended! Hope you enjoy it.

Debbie, please post a review of SOW I'd like to read the thoughts of others.