Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett

Mr Hosokawa was having a weird birthday. The head of an important company in Japan, he was invited to a (basically) state dinner thrown in honor of his birthday in a South American country that was struggling to lose its "Wild West/drug running" image and reinvent itself. They invited him hoping that he would become enchanted with their country and decide to build a factory there. (PS In my head this country is Columbia). He declines this invitation several times. But then they sweeten the party pot with an offer he can't refuse, Roxanne Cross will be brought in to sing just for him...

The government officials did their homework, because Hosokawa's great love is opera, and Roxanne, a talented soprano, is one of his most favorites. Suddenly this birthday party got MUCH more tempting...So Mr Hosokawa and his faithful translator Gen find themselves in (fictional) Columbia at the house of the Vice-President.  Hosokawa knows no one at this party except for Gen. The other guests are other foreign businessmen (Russian, French, etc,), their wives, Roxanne and her accompanist, and a priest who loved opera (who was listening from the kitchen, not as an invited guest to the dinner), among others.

All is going pretty well, if not a little bit awkward occasionally, when the lights go out at the end of Roxanne's performance. Suddenly the room is filled with guerilla soldiers and everyone is made to lay down on the floor. A birthday party that was supposed to create opportunities for a struggling country just turned into a hostage situation.

You know what bonds a bunch of former strangers together pretty fast? Teenage guerrillas with twitchy fingers. Throughout the whole hostage situation we learn about the guests, the guerillas (and who they were actually looking for when they stormed the party), courage, faith, love and the unifying language that is music!

The thing that surprised me most about this book was that I wasn't stressed out reading about it. Like sometimes when you're reading a book and scary things are happening and you're all tense? This wasn't like that. It's not to say that there aren't tense parts, or scary parts (or guns) but it wasn't a stressful read. My coworker who read the book said she thought it was kind of elegant for a hostage situation, and it really is! I didn't really have any preconceived notions about how this book would go and it turned out that I thought it was swell. 4 out of 5 stars!

Also, another simple cover I just love!


  1. I keep hearing this book recommended. I need to seriously read this book!

    1. Same with me! People kept mentioning it and I finally got around to it. I was a little worried that there would be too many characters to connect to or care about, but not the case!


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