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Bel Canto

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  179,327 Ratings  ·  10,736 Reviews
“Blissfully Romantic….A strange, terrific, spellcasting story.” — San Francisco Chronicle

Bel Canto…should be on the list of every literate music lover. The story is riveting, the participants breathe and feel and are alive, and throughout this elegantly-told novel, music pours forth so splendidly that the reader hears it and is overwhelmed by its beauty.” —Lloyd Moss, WXQ
ebook, 352 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2001)
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Mar 23, 2009 Lucy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book came highly recommended, and once I started reading, I kept thinking I had already but couldn't, for the life of me, remember how it ended. Turns out, it only seemed familiar to me because it is based on a real life experience. In 1995, the president of Peru and many of his guests were taken hostage and held for months. Bel Canto is a fictitious story based loosely on those events.

I only liked Bel Canto. I understand its appeal - the coming together of hostages and terrorists alike, bu
Aug 26, 2009 Danielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Opera fans, linguists, and anyone who doesn't need a book to end happily to feel fulfilled
Recommended to Danielle by: Paul VanDenBerghe
This is one of my top five favorite books. Bel Canto made me a devoted Patchett fan, although her other work hasn't quite stood up to the high expectations this one set for her. Just to set the scene, I read this book while on a three week trip through Europe. Travelling by train, I had plenty of time to read, but missed a lot of the beautiful countryside (especially of France and Switzerland) because I simply couldn't tear myself away from this book, it was that good. My husband woke up on the ...more
Let me preface this review by saying that I know this a disproportionately emotional review, but it's my review and my emotions and it is what it is.

In 1996, the home of the Japanese ambassador to Peru was taken hostage by guerillas during a party and held for 126 days until the home was raided by military force killing all the insurgents, many executed after they surrendered. At a time when Peru suffered an undercurrent of terrorist activity, president Fujimori was praised for his handling of t
To me, this book is luminous. Glorious. Magnificent. Perfect. (Well, almost perfect. I'll explain in a moment.)

I first read "Bel Canto" in 2005, and I was so absorbed in the story that I would sneak away from my desk at work just to have a few precious moments with it. The story opens with a renowned opera singer, Roxanne Coss, giving a private performance at the home of a vice president of an unnamed South American country. Several people in the room are already in love with her, and others wil
Feb 14, 2016 Jaidee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

1.5 "overwrought, stereotypical, ridiculous" stars.

2015 Most Disappointing Read Award (tie)

Of all the books on my reading list, "Bel Canto" was one that I was most looking forward to. You see after my faith and my loved ones the thing I most adore is Opera.

Opera has been my passion, my solace, my escape and the most direct connection to my emotional life. I have found Opera beautiful, profound, wise and affirming. I was introduced to Opera at the age of 10 and since then there has not been a
I was only 3 when Patty Hearst showed up on TV toting a semi automatic weapon looking bewildered and stylish in a length leather belted coat. Do I remember this? Hell no, I was three, but later… you know when I was like eight or nine and I would think it was so cool that she was brainwashed---what an interesting word--- and I’d have Barbie kidnap Skipper and force her to drop her frumpy ways and really live the lie…, I mean life. Sorry.

So, what does that have to do with this? Well, I guess you
Mar 18, 2016 Debbie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, loathed

How could a wanna-read-bad TBR turn into a sorry-ass DNF?


Who AM I? I finish every book I start, yet I did not finish this one! And I LOVE Ann Patchett! Her State of Wonder is one of my all-time favorite books! What the fuck is going on?

I’m having a serious crisis here. Have I thought this out carefully? Can I really pull off abandoning this book? I must do it. Calm down. It’s okay. Listen to your friends who whisper, “It’s fine….let go…” A zillion other books are beckoning.
Jun 26, 2007 Michele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stay With This One. It's Worth It.

Bel Canto is one of those novels that is good on so many levels, it's taken me days after finishing it to put my thoughts about the story and the characters into words. This work is as lyrical and dramatic as any opera, and the word "brilliant" isn't excessive to describe the talent of author, Ann Patchett. I wondered how she came up with such a remarkable and unique story, but then learned she'd been influenced by actual events involving a hostage situation in
Aug 07, 2007 Aaron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NPR listeners who secretly want to read a romance novel
A novel about a hostage crisis that goes wrong -- with very sexy results, Bel Canto might have been a better read if at some point Patchett did anything to acknowledge the plot's ridiculousness. Instead, she treats the readers to vague social commentary about South America, multiple nobel savage tropes, and a crisis situation where people do have sex, but only after first taking the time to fall in love. It's also somewhat about opera, so allow me the metaphor that Bel Canto hits all the obvious ...more
Apr 15, 2008 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adam by: liz
I read this book because my girlfriend--who loved it--recommended it to me. She also implied that I could stand to girly up my reading list a little, which is probably fair. Man does not live by novelizations of '70s cop movies and '80s slasher movie tie-ins alone.

Anyway, I thought it was good. The characters were all likable and the story was engaging, if wholly improbable (Bel Canto could just as easily have been titled The Lighter Side of Stockholm Syndrome). My main problem with it was the w
May 05, 2008 Sally rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I just couldn't do it! The premise was great, the writing was swallowable, but the story! The painful, painful story. There was no character that I truly cared about, and when the "hostages" became "free" or whatever I threw the book across the room and there it has remained ever since. A hefty dust bunny now resides atop. I'd rather read Better Homes and Gardens than finish this one.

yes, i have just discovered
Robert Beveridge
Ann Patchett, Bel Canto (Harper, 2001)

I have spent quite a while mulling this over, and have finally come to the conclusion that, patterned after Greek tragic opera or not, I can't forgive Ann Patchett for the climax of this novel. Much of that has to do with the beginning of the novel; I'd have been inclined to be more forgiving had the first hundred pages not moved at a snail's pace. But the book finally picked up, everything was going along swimmingly, and then, suddenly, bam-the most predict
Mar 01, 2009 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is nothing I can say. I don't even know how.

Instead, I will veil my head, lament the deaths of each person loved since the beginning of time, and cry tears of unsurpassed desolation in the hopes that tomorrow, the sun will shine on my face and god will see me standing there.
i don't think i want to rate this book. in my opinion it's not a good book, but there is something very powerful about it and i don't think a rating can do justice to the combination of these two facts -- the fact that it isn't a good book and the fact that there is something powerful about it.

it isn't a good book for all the reasons everyone who gave it one star brings up. what is powerful about it is that the whole book is a tribute to womanhood. someone told me yesterday that everyone loves
Jun 10, 2008 alex rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
it was... readable. flat characters. overly foreshadowed. i brought it to the beach b/c i thought it'd be a good beach read. it reminded me of jean-jacques beneix's film Diva, except instead of some large complex crime with lots of confusion and intrigue, it was simple and dull. maudlin and vapid. everyone loves the soprano. everyone loves each other. both music and love are transcendent, ephemeral, and life-altering. the end.

p.s. the book definitely takes place in peru.
Mar 26, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Exquisite. Patchett does two really remarkable things here. Well, she does many remarkable things, but two I'd particularly like to point out:
1. When an author loves her characters too much, the reader can often tell. Situations and descriptions seem contrived, and there is a veneer of (usually unintentional) dishonesty. But in Bel Canto, it's clear that Patchett is in love with her characters, yet she is able to remain objective and in control. Her role as the omniscient narrator allows her to
Dec 29, 2008 S. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those less cyncial than I
Recommended to S. by: my mother
All in all a little too sugar-coated for my taste – the discovered friendships, unlikely loves, the pervading beauty of every damn thing . . . And the purported passion surrounding one of the most important elements, opera, was unconvincing. It felt largely like a vacuous prop to be honest, like rattling off a list of arias to prove yourself a connoisseur of the beautiful.

But the writing was decent and I decided about a quarter of the way through I shouldn’t be too hard-hearted (and the book aim
Aug 28, 2009 Sandi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, literature
"Bel Canto" may be one of the top ten books I've read this year. It is absolutely beautifully written and very gripping. I really felt like I was there and that I was getting to know the characters as they got to know each other. I felt like one of them. Without giving anything away, I was totally surprised and shocked by the ending. However, in retrospect, I realized that it really couldn't have ended any other way. I recommend "Bel Canto" for everyone.

Nov 20, 2007 Karolina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People that like hostage stories and romanticism...
I mostly choose to try reading this book because someone I like told me it'd be good, and definitely made it sound interesting. When I looked at it individually, I wasn't that interested, and I stopped reading about after 100 pages.

The characters seem uniform (except for the Mr. Hosokowa). Somehow, they became flat. It feels like there's no distinction between gender eventually, and the small quirks that separate each person start to fade out under all the jabbering about the opera singer. Exhau
Lisette Brodey
Apr 07, 2009 Lisette Brodey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Books are so subjective. No matter how much we know this, it’s still shocking to love a book and see that others hated it, or to hate a book that others loved. It’s the same for everything else in life: people, films, TV shows, vacation spots, singers, etc. etc. We are all so very different.

Sometimes, when I finish a book, if I didn’t like it, I will usually have very concrete reasons why I did not. And sometimes I will have very concrete reasons why I did like a book. But often, as is the case
Feb 09, 2016 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of opera and/or guns
Shelves: music, 2016
Bel canto means "beautiful song," and Anne Patchett wanted to write a melodrama. Big emotions, big events, like an opera. The plot of her book seems allegorical; it's certainly not realistic, which makes it a surprise that it's based on real events. She was inspired by the Japanese embassy hostage crisis of 1996, during which a number of diplomats were taken hostage for a remarkable 126 days. She thought - I'm taking much of my information from a terrific interview at the end of the book - she t ...more
Art, love and a terrorist attack. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? I, certainly, approve of the juxtaposition - politicians and opera divas entrapped by guerrilla fighters in a villa, in some undefined South American country, getting affected by the Stockholm syndrome by minute. Sadly it wasn't what I expected.

The opening sequence is captivating, but from then on, the plot becomes scarce and progresses forward at a speed of a glacier. The usual character build-up gets nowhere. As a result, charac
Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 12, 2007 Susie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maybe
I did enjoy Bel Canto. I found it to be a very pretty book in writing and plot. The characters each had something about them that appealed to me as a reader and made me associate with them. I enjoyed the idea that music (more specifcally opera) was the one thing that they all understood no matter what country they were from nor which side they were on. Though I do not know opera, it was easy to associate the devotion these people had to music to other things in my life which made relating to the ...more
Dec 31, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of music, languages, and Latin America
Recommended to Rachel by: Robbie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
This one just sticks with you. All told from inside a banquet room which terrorists have held hostages. The relationships that develop will not be forgotten.
Oct 09, 2015 Cher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 stars - It was good.

Ann Patchett has a beautiful way with words and this book was no exception. It is unfortunate that several other components took away from the lovely prose.

The plot moved rather slowly, which is surprising given the plot synopsis, and the plodding pace took away from what should have been tense and suspenseful. The ending, on the other hand, came abruptly and was too rushed.

It is always a turn off for me when a love interest develops between two people that are inappropria
Dec 24, 2008 DeEtte rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The premise of this book was very intriguing to me. A group of people, all from different countries, are at a presidential dinner party in an unnamed country, when revolutionaries storm the house and take everyone hostage. What ensues is a nearly 6-month long captivity for 39 men and 1 woman plus 15 "terrorists". I thought this would be a fantastic tale, full of rich characters...since they're all stuck in a house for 6 months there's bound to be some great stories (or backstories or something), ...more
Jun 13, 2007 Sammy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: b-the-good
Ann Patchett truly did an amazing job with writing this book. She wrote in a style that made you feel like you were there being held hostage. Time played no factor in the story... just like the hostages lost their sense of time. After a while you no longer knew if it had been two weeks since the terrorists had crashed the party, or two months. And when you do find out it's been two months you're just as shocked as the hostages.

You grow weary along with the hostages when you read about some munda
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Patchett was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray.

She moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was six, where she continues to live. Patchett said she loves her home in Nashville with her doctor husband and dog. If asked if she could go any place, that place would always be home. "Home is ...the stable window that opens out into the imagination."

Patchett attended hi
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“It makes you wonder. All the brilliant things we might have done with our lives if only we suspected we knew how.” 1976 likes
“Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. … It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.” 237 likes
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