Bel Canto

…by Ann Patchett.

Famous opera singer Roxanne Coss has been tempted to perform in a small Latin American country as a birthday gift for Katsumi Hosokawa, an opera fanatic and the founder and president of a wealthy electronics company. The “host country” (as it is always described) has decided to throw him a birthday party with the hopes of him investing in their country. The party is attended by dignitaries from different countries with links to the company. The only one missing from the party is the President himself. Because he stayed home to watch a soap opera. 🙂 As Roxanne finishes her final aria, the vice-president’s house where the party is being thrown, is stormed by a group of terrorists. Who are looking for the President. However, due to the president not being present, they keep the rest of the party-goers hostage. Until they can decide what demands need to be met.

The journey of being held hostage is interesting. As expected, initially, the hostages are fraught with worry and stress especially after the death of Roxanne’s accompanist due to being diabetic and not having insulin available. However, as the days go on, the terrorists don’t appear to be wanting to hurt the hostages and soon find themselves doing Roxanne’s bidding. The rest of the hostages don’t feel the need to leave as their needs are being met and they get to listen to Roxanne singing. Mr. Hosokawa’s translator Gen, is useful to assist everyone given his knowledge for English, Spanish, French, German and of course, Japanese. He strikes up a romantic liaison with one of the terrorists, Carmen. In addition to these characters, there are a number of supporting characters including Frenchman, Simon Thibault whoweeps into his wife’s stole; the Swiss hostage negotiator dressed in suit and tie, the chain-smoking Russian, Fyodorov, who regales Roxane with mournful and meandering childhood stories and unrequited love, the young terrorist boy with a beautiful voice and the rest of the terrorists themselves.

It all culminates to a tragic ending as most operas do but the journey itself has several laughs and moments of tenderness. I read the book as part of my book club and had never heard about it. While it didn’t keep me gripped the entire time, it was still quite a delightful read. I give it a rating. 3.

Until next time,



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