Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bel Canto” as Want to Read:
Bel Canto
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Bel Canto

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  158,646 ratings  ·  9,659 reviews
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening—until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins ...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published June 10th 2008 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 2001)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bel Canto, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Allie Coleman
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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.
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

yes, i have just discovered
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.
"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.

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
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.
Dec 29, 2008 S. rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Nov 20, 2007 Karolina rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Jun 12, 2007 Susie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Ben Babcock
One of my favourite shows is Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I could get into why, but then we’d be here all day). One of the villains in the second season is a vampire named Spike. He’s a cold and ruthless antagonist, but then in season four he gets metaphorically declawed. With a chip in his head that causes him intense pain if he harms humans, Spike is neutralized as a threat. He spends a good deal of that season tied up in Xander’s basement. It becomes a running joke, in fact, how harmless he is, ...more
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
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
Dec 31, 2008 Rachel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
The Good:
In an unnamed South American country, a birthday party is being celebrated for a Mr. Hosokawa, one of the most wealthy men in the world. He's a workaholic and only agreed to attend after hearing his favourite opera singer, Roxanne Coss, would be there. The party is going well until interrupted by a group of terrorists. Their plan, to hold the President hostage and make demands upon the government. When they discover the leaders absence, the terrorists are forced to rethink their plan.

I bought this book for $1 and I'm glad because it's one I won't have to consider trading in at the used bookstore (seeing as how it now has highlighted passages and all).

This is one of those books you instantly like or dislike, I think. I couldn't give this one less than a 4 because the descriptive prose here was floating on so much lyricism, a savoring read. Some books you read to get to another scene, plot, turning point, pivotal moment, etc...some books you read to savor. This was such a boo
Bunga Mawar
Sinopsis pada sampul belakang buku hijau berjudul asli Bel Canto ini begitu mengundang saya mengambilnya dari bak buku obralan di TM Bookstore Detos pada akhir tahun lalu. Sinopsis itu, bagian pertamanya saya ceritakan kembali seperti ini:

Pada suatu pesta makan malam para diplomat dan usahawan di sebuah negara miskin di Amerika Selatan, sekelompok tentara gerilya menyerbu. Mereka menyandera lebih dari 200 tamu karena tidak menemukan presiden negara itu - sasaran utama untuk diculik - di antara h
When Ann Patchett came to the college where I work on staff to give a reading to our students, I attended. The room was packed and bursting to the seams. Her book had been assigned as part of a summer reading program for incoming freshman, discussed in groups, now discussed with the author herself, and all concluding with her reading. It was a delight. Many authors who write well do not read well, but Patchett does both - and very well.

Bel Canto is a simple enough story (and those are always the
Ann Patchett fell in love with her characters, and you could tell that from the beginning. And what she did, I did as well.

I'm so happy that Bel Canto and I shared some time together. It was pretty much difficult to say goodbye. I felt bonded with it like it was my friend, as I attached myself with some of the characters very much.

It so rare to find a book where you have such a big group of people, on extreme opposite sides and, the middle with no sides, for which you can say that is so essent
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Choice ...: Bel Canto - February 2015 24 67 Mar 02, 2015 06:13PM  
greatest parties in literature 14 155 Feb 07, 2015 11:59AM  
Ladies & Lite...: * Official December 2014 Book Discussion: Bel Canto 19 44 Feb 02, 2015 12:08PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett 4 23 Jan 13, 2015 05:09PM  
Bel Canto 4 77 Oct 24, 2014 03:22AM  
  • A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays
  • The Art of Fiction
  • The Archidamian War
  • Brigadoon (Vocal Score)
  • Lisa And David
  • Extravagance
  • Empire Falls
  • Three Junes
  • Plainsong (Plainsong, #1)
  • A Quiet Storm
  • The Meaning of Consuelo
  • A Mencken Chrestomathy
  • Cousin Bette (Poor Relations)
  • Novels, 1944-1962: My Home is Far Away / The Locusts Have No King / The Wicked Pavilion / The Golden Spur
  • Animal Dreams
  • Just a Couple of Days
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Great Man
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
More about Ann Patchett...
State of Wonder Run Truth and Beauty The Magician's Assistant Patron Saint of Liars

Share This Book

16 trivia questions
2 quizzes
More quizzes & trivia...
“It makes you wonder. All the brilliant things we might have done with our lives if only we suspected we knew how.” 1940 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.” 211 likes
More quotes…