Why did I wait so long to read BEL CANTO? Because the synopsis starts with mention of a terrorist takeover at an A-list social event in South America, and I don’t do terrorism for pleasure. Since I read for pleasure, seeing the word “terrorist” was enough to turn me off.
How. Stupid. Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors, and so many of my friends had loved BEL CANTO that I should have listened. Ach. Better later than never.
The fact is, I don’t think I’ve smiled, even laughed so much reading a book as I did reading (listening to, actually) this one. There was dry wit and out-and-out humor. It helped that the audiobook reader was phenomenal. She had so many different voices to portray – Opera singer, two female terrorists, three Asian men, three Latin generals, a Russian, a Frenchman – that a lesser reader would have failed. This one spoke perfectly in all these different voices.
The real gem, though, is Ann Patchett. She isn’t full of herself. Her writing is smooth and vivid, if spare. She imbues each of these characters with unique qualities, all of which blend to make her story an exquisite tapestry.
“Bel Canto” translates to “beautiful singing,” and yes, opera plays a part in the book. Not being an opera buff, I wasn’t so much intrigued by this, though, as by the emotional growth of the characters as days of siege become weeks, then months. Some reviewers point to Stockholm Syndrome to account for the connections that form between captives and captors, but I think there’s more. What we see in BEL CANTO is the removal of people from their prescribed lives enough to be able to see themselves and their strengths in very different ways.
BEL CANTO has zoomed to the top of my all-time-favorites list. I highly recommend it!