Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Alexis: Happy National Read A Book Day!

Yesterday, I finished reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. This was my first Ann Patchett read, and I’ve been meaning to read her books for a long time. 

Bel Canto was not my usual read. Here’s a quick summary: In an unidentified South American country, famous opera singer Roxane Coss is invited to sing at Mr. Hokosowa, a businessman’s, birthday party. During the party, a group of terrorists burst into the house and keep the entire party hostage. What ensues is an unusual hostage situation that goes on for months and months. 

This book is basically a giant character study. As a reader, you are launched into the minds of a multitude of characters. You learn about their families, their fears, and their interests in life. You learn about their inner lives.

The book itself is very slow moving. Plot wise, not much happens. About halfway through, the hostage dynamic changes, which leads to some interesting developments. 

To be honest, I was a little bored with the first half. Patchett spend pages and pages on characters that I wasn’t interested in learning about. But most of the book is about Gen, Mr. Hokosowa’s translator. He was by far my favorite character. It was really interesting to see life from his language-based perspective.  

My biggest issue with this book is the ending. After spending so much time learning about the characters, the book ends abruptly. I know Patchett probably did this on purpose, but still. As the reader, it was jarring. Despite the fact that I guessed the ending, it still felt melodramatic when it happened. With some much time dedicated to talking about opera, this book did tend to lean on the melodrama. 

And then there’s the epilogue. I could deal with the ending, but the epilogue was wholly unneeded, and it honestly made no sense. Unfortunately, the epilogue is the thing I was left with, so I still have its bitter aftertaste in my mouth.

Overall, I enjoyed some sections of this book, and found other sections very slow moving. It wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed the overarching message. 

VERDICT: 3 stars

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