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helenliz

helenliz

Bel Canto

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett This was just wonderful. Some of the turns of phrase were just exquisite. It tells of a botched attempt to kidnap the president of a country that is never actually named. I have the feeling we're talking South American, from some of the Spanish sounding names of the natives, but it's never made clear where it's set. The action is concentrated on the vice president's mansion, where a birthday party is taking place for a Japanese industrialist who might want to build a factory. The star attraction is a Soprano called Roxanne Koss, and at the very point she finishes the final aria, the lights go out & the terrorists appear through the airvents. However the president's not there - he's at home watching his favourite soap opera. The story then proceeds through the initial tense stages of negotiation, and a red cross worker (who was on holiday) appears to play a role in the undertaking. The terrorists are an intriguing mixture of generals and very young boys who are initially impossible to identify. However, as the story unfolds, they become individuals and their specific talents and characters unfold. The same is true of the hostages. After some initial confusion, the number of hostages is reduced to 40, including a translator and a priest (who decides to stay, when offered freedom). They, too, emerge from an amorphous whole to become a series of individuals, who have to find ways of getting along and coping in the situation they find themselves. They all have their specific talents and roles to play in the progression of the story. The presence of the soprano means that there is a musical theme that runs through the entire piece. The hostages are all half in love with her - or is it with her music? it's probably a mixture of both. It has a powerful impact on the story at several points and leaves a lasting impression. There's an air of melancholy over the entire thing - you know from the start that this does finish and you have the sense that it doesn't finish happily for all concerned. But that's not to say it isn't filled with beauty and hope. As the siege is prolonged, the conversations increasingly turn to thoughts of when this is over and all sorts of possibilities present themselves between the hostages and various terrorists. That these are destined to not happen contributes to the air of melancholy, but also illustrates how you can't judge a person by the clothes they wear or the people they are associated with. I think it might just have had 5 stars had I read it, not listened to it. I have the audiobooks in the car (on the grounds that I may as well do something mildly more edifying with my hour plus commute than listen to the radio) meaning that you can't actually immerse yourself in the story - at least some portion of the brain has to pay attention to the task at hand. But this means that I can't ever loose myself in the book - and this is one book that I think it would have been possible to loose track of time and space had I been reading it.