Jessica's Reviews > Bel Canto

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
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Mar 26, 2008

it was amazing
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Read in March, 2008

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 travel in and out of various character's minds, and she does so with grace and assurance. Each emotion feels true to the character, and each character feels distinct and real. Patchett's gentle yet powerful language moves around the room and through the diverse characters easily and intentionally.
2. How often do authors rely on villains and extremes to make their stories stand out? What struck me on completing Bel Canto was that the characters are in a situation that strips them down to their essentials and forces each of them to come to know their true selves. What Patchett does that feels almost revolutionary is that for every character, from terrorist to CEO, when they see their true selves what they see there is goodness and love for others. How amazing it is to think that we are so much better than we know!

Tragedy is foreshadowed from the beginning, yet the book is really about beautiful moments and realizations. When cut off from the outside world for a few months, both the captors and the hostages are free to discover love and other talents. The bizarre nature of the situation, coupled with the endless stretches of time in one place, allows for people to connect across cultures and individual variances. I'm making this sound cheesy, but it's not at all. Even with such an improbable premise, nothing is maudlin or exaggerated, no character is a caricature -- and that is a real accomplishment.
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03/04 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sharon K. Someone should hire you to write book promotions - after reading your review I REALLY want to read the book even though I hadn't taken a look at it before. Thanks!


Peggy Jessica -- Thanks for this eloquent review. I've been resisting this novel, for some reason, but you have methinking I have to try it. -- Peggy


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