In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the … see full wiki
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.