Bel Canto

Bel Canto

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Ann Patchett

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  • Publisher: FOURTH ESTATE LTD
  • Format: Paperback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 192mm x 24mm | 222g
  • Publication date: 30 April 2002
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1841155837
  • ISBN 13: 9781841155838
  • Sales rank: 4,695

Product description

The poignant - and at times very funny - new novel from the author of 'The Magician's Assistant', shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Latin terrorists storm an international gathering hosted by an underprivileged country to promote foreign interest and trade, only to find that their intended target, the President, has stayed home to watch his favourite soap opera on TV. Among the hostages are a world class opera singer and her biggest fan, a Japanese tycoon who has been persuaded to attend the party on the understanding that she will perform half a dozen arias after dinner. The tycoon's engaging and sympathetic translator plays a vital role in the subsequent relationships between so many different nationalities closeted together, interpreting not only the terrorists' negotiations but also the language of love between lovers who cannot understand what the other is saying. Ultimately, it is the terrorist strike that does more to promote foreign relations than anyone could have hoped to achieve with the party.

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Author information

Originally from Los Angeles, Ann Patchett has also written The Magician's Assistant and The Patron Saint of Liars. She lives in Nashville and is the Tennessee Williams Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of the South.

Customer reviews

By Melissa 06 May 2011 5

Really enjoyed this book. I read it about two years ago now and to this day I still find myself thinking about it. Can't wait until I have some time to read it again.

Review quote

'A beguiling mix of thriller, romantic comedy, and novel of ideas...Crisply written, immaculately plotted, and often very funny, it is that rarity - a literary novel you simply can't put down.' The Times 'Like the blueprint of operatic performance that she has imported, Patchett slides from strutting camp to high tragedy, minute social comedy to sublime romanticism.' Alex Clark, Guardian 'Expect miracles when you read Ann Patchett's fiction. Comparisons are tempting to the unabashed romanticism of Laurie Colwin, the eccentric characters of Anne Tyler, the enchantments of Alice Hoffman. But Patchett is unique; a generous, fearless and startlingly wise young writer.' New York Times Review of Books

Editorial reviews

Winner of the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction, this is a literary novel that grips as firmly as any thriller. In Latin America a group of terrorists take over an international gathering, only to discover their intended target, the president, is at home watching a soap opera. With their plan in ruins General Alfredo assaults the Vice President and allows a sick hostage to die. But these are unusual terrorists, described by the Red Cross negotiator as unprofessional. They feel grief at the death and are as trapped as their hostages as the inevitable end draws near. The siege leads to the formation of surprising liaisons between captives and terrorists. Roxanne Coss, an American diva, meets her biggest fan, Japanese industrialist Mr Hosokawa, and the two fall in love. His translator, Gen, starts to teach one of the terrorists, the gentle and beautiful Carmen, and they begin a passionate relationship. This very disparate group are forced into constructing their own, new society and for all concerned the experience becomes one of personal discovery. It is in the everyday details of their lives that the book excels. With the deftest of touches Patchett brings her characters to such convincing life that the reader follows their actions with rapt attention. At the heart of the book is the belief in the inherent goodness of mankind; of the desire to be one's best self. This is represented by the beautiful singing - bel canto - of Roxanne, who entertains them throughout their captivity. When removed from their everyday lives people have the ability to respond to art and be transformed by it. Gen translates languages for captors and hostages but ultimately it is Roxanne who shows us how to let go of the literal meaning of words and rely on the truth of our emotions. (Kirkus UK)