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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bel Canto, by Anne Patchett - A Review by Toni


I read this book with my book club for our January read. I actually listened to the audio. It is a book about a hostage situation that takes place in South America. It takes place in the home of the Vice-President of the country, where a Japanese business man has been invited to celebrate his birthday. A world famous opera singer has been invited to perform at the occasion. The event is taken over by terrorists. So we have a multi-culture, multi-gender hostage situation that takes place for several months in large home.

I believe the writing is eloquent and descriptive. Even quite beautiful at times. The beauty of the writing didn't seem to match the story. I don't know if I read this book at the wrong time in my life or what, but it didn't click for me. I wonder if listening to the audio changed my view of the story? For me the story was far fetched. I believe I am too sensitive in nature to turn a hostage situation into an event where true love can blossom. I believe the story could have happened with a stranded cruise ship on an island, or people stuck in an airport. I find it hard to believe that if I was held by gunpoint, in fear of my life, kept away from my family and friends, that I would have an open heart to love and acceptance of my captors. Since I have never been a hostage, I was unable to "step into the shoes" of the hostages that soon become "friends" with their captors. Even though I know there is a documented syndrome where this happens. Examples: (Patty Hearst and Jaycee Lee Dugard).

I didn't bond with the characters. Sometimes within a story, I can see little glimpse of myself in a character or at least relate. I couldn't seem to relate to these characters, and actually didn't even really care about the leading lady. It all seemed too casual and sugar-coated. The bad guys were not bad enough and the victims didn't act like victims. I did experience some enchantment from time to time. I was touched by a governess who stitched up the cheek of the Vice President. It was a moving scene that I found believable. The descriptive writing supported this scene well and I was moved.

I didn't hate the book but rarely found myself wanting to read on and to know more. The end seemed to be realistic and yet, not what I was wanting or expecting. That being said, it is definitely a book that I would say read for yourself and see if it takes hold for you. I have read numerous wonderful reviews. One of my book club members said it is one of her all time favorite books. She had a lot of wonderful points to share about the book. She found a lot of beauty in the everyday events of the story and life of the situation.

I would definitely read more from this author.

15 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I bought this recently and hope I like it more than you did.

Muse in the Fog said...

I have had this book on my shelf for a while but have never gotten around to reading it. It was a random purchase for me and the synopsis no longer sounds interesting. Hmmm, maybe one day it will spark my interest again. Hope you love your next read!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I definitely have to read this again. I read it a long time ago and all I remember is that I really liked it, but my husband thought more like you did. I'm curious now and need to get back to it again!

Diane said...

I've owned this book for several years and really need to move it up the priority list. I've read about 3 or 4 other Patchett books and enjoyed them, so not sure why I've been avoiding this one.

Thanks for telling us about your thoughts as well as your group.

juliebrichta said...

I've also had this book on my TBR list for quite a while. Thanks for the honest review. I'm curious to compare my thoughts to your when I finally get around to reading it.

Dar said...

Well put Toni, much better than I was able to. I think the main thing for me was not being able to connect with anyone in the story. It just doesn't make it worth reading for me. As you say though, I've heard from many who have liked it.

Jenny Girl said...

If books don't make me want to read them, then I know it's time to move on to something else. Sorry this wasn't up to snuff. Good review though. Very balanced.

Geri said...

Very nice review,Toni. You and I agree on many points. Perhaps I was more disappointed in the book than you were..either that or you are so much nicer than I.

Suko said...

Isn't it interesting how different people read "the same book" and have varying opinions about it? When you think about it, we bring a lot of ourselves to the books we read.

Thanks for your honest review. I have another book by this author, Run, waiting to be read. It will be my first by Ann Patchett.

Jenny Weddel said...

I had the same feeling, and feel better having heard your review, because I've heard so many people passionate review this book too, and I just didn't click with it. The writing is lovely, but I found the ending very jarring. I felt like I just didn't "get it". I would love to hear what it is that people love about the story to see if I could connect with what they say. Thanks for the review!

Serena said...

I have yet to read this even though it sits on my shelves. Stockholm Syndrome is quite common in hostage situations in which victims fall for their captors...I wonder if that is what the author is trying to capture.

Thanks for the honest review.

Ti said...

This one didn't click for me either. I ended up not finishing it but my book club enjoyed it. It's weird how some books hit the mark and others don't. For me, it's all about WHEN I read a book. I have to be in the right mood sometimes.

LisaMM said...

I hated this book. I mean, really hated it. I read about 2/3rds of it before I dumped it, but I was forcing myself, and I only did that because other people had said how great it was.

Gwendolyn B. said...

You did a good job explaining why this book just didn't work for you. I have to admit I took a pass on this one when I first heard about it. Hope your next read is more enjoyable!

Mari said...

That is too bad. I loved this book. It was actually one of my favorites the year I read it.