Saturday, January 14, 2012

Feeding on Words: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Description from Amazon.com:

"Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped."


My take on the story:


Bel Canto is one of those stories where you think you know what's going on but you just don't get it until you read it. It takes a semi-slow pace from Chapter 1 until the last few chapters then suddenly fast forwards into the story leaving you breathless and shocked that you just finished the book. I love how Patchett builds up relationships in the story even though their circumstances seem hopeless. The details on the house where her characters were taken hostage gives more ambiance to the story and for the hours you read the book, you'll actually feel that you're in one of the rooms, trapped until something actually happens. 


The love stories are also beautiful although I still don't understand what exactly happened at the very end of the book. I won't say who ended up with whom but it seemed, well, weird but real. I guess only if you think about all they've been through and how life would be when they all moved on, I guess that's the only time you can see the relevance of what they did. The progress of the relationships seemed to revolve around tension and made it more delightful and dangerous for both parties.


The singing and the opera also made me want to research on all those pieces. I have never seen or heard opera on stage but for a person who loves performing, I bet I'd love to sit and watch the actors tell their stories through song. That's exactly what Roxanne did for the hostages and it made life much more bearable for everyone. Music truly calms the soul and keeps peace. It directs people from being hopeless to feeling like they matter. 


What made me love the story all the more is that it isn't a usual hostage-taking story where everyone runs and the bad guys die. True, many will die in the story but they were not the ones you wanted to be killed in a military encounter. Patchett will draw you into the lives of her characters and make you like them or hate them but nevertheless you'll know them. That makes you empathize with everything that they feel and do and makes you want to stop the shooting at the very end. You'd want to stop reading and finish that scene at the same time. You'd want to scream "you're killing the wrong people!" and know that there's no use in that. Like in any book, the characters will be at the mercy of their author.


Bel Canto is a thumbs up read that anyone who loves action, romance and even politics should read. See that even though I've read it last year, I can still remember the heartbreaking moments when I should have stopped reading just to keep some characters alive. That's how beautiful the story is.



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