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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  252,032 ratings  ·  15,765 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 August 2nd 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published May 22nd 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
Judy Lindow
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Aneta 'We have art in order not to die from the truth' - F. Nietzsche…more'We have art in order not to die from the truth' - F. Nietzsche(less)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Best Books of the Decade: 2000s
6,882 books — 28,319 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane AustenTwilight by Stephenie Meyer
Best Books Ever
54,980 books — 211,512 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  252,032 ratings  ·  15,765 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Bel Canto
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
Sep 11, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Holy crap! This "1-Dayer" deserves applause & praise indeed as it will surely stay with you like some truly terrific (& best yet, catchy) song for days, for weeks to come.

What happens when terrorists take over a party held in honor of a Japanese businessman at the house of the Vice President of some unknown South American city? A translator is thankfully employed, a Diva is made to sing like a modern Scheherazade. Renaissance flourishes as these individuals in the most insane of circumstances co
Ahmad Sharabiani
Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

Bel Canto is the fourth novel by American author Ann Patchett, published in 2001 by Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. It was also adapted into an opera in 2015.

Based on the Japanese embassy hostage crisis (also called the Lima Crisis) of 1996–1997 in Lima, Peru, the novel follows the relationships among a group of young terrorists and their hostages, who are mostly high-profile executives and politicians, over several months. Many of the characters form u
Nov 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 18, 2015 rated it did not like it

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.
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
How did Patchett do this? A seemingly horrifying event turned into a mystical one. Where lines of good vs evil are blurred. Where time is suspended.

It's a birthday party gala in South America. The guest of honour, a powerful Japanese figurehead, almost didn't make it himself except for the soprano whose voice he adores. As the final note is sung, the lights go out and the guerrillas enter. The party is hijacked for political reasons but what transpires during the next few months are the unusual
Jan 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Men of great importance were held hostage with a soprano. Until they realized how trivial their existences have been to the world and the world's to them. Men of different countries, men of different taste and language shut their eyes to the same beauty. Terrorists with gun earned sympathy worshipping that beauty only. A priest found his God next to him.

Bel Canto embodies art itself. The book celebrates the love for what is beyond and what is incomparably greater. Our deaths don't define us, nei
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have read a few of this author's books now and I know what to expect. Perfect prose, well defined characters, a slow rambling story like a stroll in a beautiful park. And more often than not a difficult ending.

Bel Canto demonstrates all of those characteristics. Reading it was a real pleasure and the author did not put a foot wrong literary wise. All of the characters are well defined and by the end they become people you know and some like Gen you really want to meet.

Then there is the ending
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
“To think that God heard his name from so many voices.” (4.5 stars)

The ending of “Bel Canto” left me in a bit of a daze for a few minutes. The novel cast a spell so strong, that when the jarring reality of life springs up at the conclusion you can’t help but be a little disoriented.
This is a novel that has been on my radar for years, but I am just now picking it up.
This story, told by an omniscient narrator, follows a hostage situation in the vice presidential palace of an unnamed South Americ
Apr 09, 2007 rated it liked it

yes, i have just discovered
I was only 3 when Patty Hearst showed up on TV toting a semi automatic weapon looking bewildered and stylish in a ¾ 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
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
May 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
High 4*

I'm patting myself on the back for trying this audiobook again. The first time around, I just couldn't get into it - I put it down to not being in the right mood, although it was puzzling as I adore Opera and I'm keen on Latin anything and I had enjoyed Patchett's writing before.

For what it's worth, I wasn't as enchanted with Anna Fields' delivery. I hope this audiobook is reissued, with a better production - I mean you have opera, you have all kind of languages, bullets - it could be an
Mar 29, 2008 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
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Bel Canto is the second book I've read by Ann Patchett. Commonwealth was the first and I loved it. I'd been wanting to read Bel Canto for a long time. I liked some of the book but there were parts of it that really seemed to drag on and I had no problem setting it aside at intervals. I felt like the action came very! late in the story. The ending was fine, however, I wasn't thrilled (or even kind of pleased) with the epilogue. For all the hype I'd hear about this book, it was somewhat of a letdo ...more
L A i N E Y ~back in a bit~
[[notes]] I just watched the movie and I was kind of shocked how it made me a whole lot more emotional than reading the book itself. Julianne Moore made this story feels believable for me. Splendid casting.


This book was so weird.
Made even weirder by that epilogue.

This is the first book I read that I did not like the epilogue.

I just didn't feel 'danger' or 'passion' for that matter. It didn't jump off the page for me. I wouldn't have finished it at all if I wasn't ill with the flu. You kno
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 25, 2009 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.
This was my third Patchett novel - I have also read the more recent Commonwealth and The Dutch House, and although I have great respect for her craft as a writer and her books are easy to read, I don't think she'll ever be a personal favourite writer. Like those books, this one has many endearing elements and is very well written, but for me the whole framing scenario was a little too implausible and romantic, and the ending a little too contrived. ...more
Jun 24, 2011 added it
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
Maggie Stiefvater
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
This is a weird and beautiful book about machine guns, chopping onions, and opera singers. Check your disbelief at the door and enjoy the language. I don't care for the ending -- but it was worth it anyway. Lovely writing.

***wondering why all my reviews are five stars? Because I'm only reviewing my favorite books -- not every book I read. Consider a novel's presence on my Goodreads bookshelf as a hearty endorsement. I can't believe I just said "hearty." It sounds like a stew.****
I am so upset. But not for the reasons one might expect. The fact that it was not a happy ending was expected. On the contrary, most authors would have made a happy ending out of this story, and I applaud Ann Patchett for not taking the easy way out- however much I wanted it for all the characters I became attached to. Which she did was not necessarily worse, but definitely as bad. It was not only sudden, but seemingly random. Almost as if she was rushed to meet a deadline. Almost exactly in the ...more
Nandakishore Mridula
There are certain books which start with a bang and drag you in. And before you know, you are in the midst of the story. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is one such book.

It is a birthday party in honour of Mr. Hosokawa, a Japanese tycoon, in the Vice Presidential mansion in an unnamed Latin American country, whose government hopes he will invest there. Mr. Hosokawa, however, has come only to hear the famous lyric soprano Roxane Coss perform live - he has been an opera lover all his life, and a fan of
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
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Libretti Literati...: Bel Canto - February 2 6 Feb 18, 2021 06:41AM  
Savidge Reads: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2002) 12 65 Feb 06, 2020 08:57AM  
Play Book Tag: Bel Canto 4 stars 9 17 Jun 03, 2019 06:29PM  
Play Book Tag: Bel Canto / Ann Patchett. 3.5 stars 3 19 May 27, 2019 04:56PM  
2021 Reading Chal...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Bel Canto 7 33 Apr 26, 2019 08:33PM  
Bel Canto Book Club 2 38 Apr 12, 2019 07:06AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Vanishing Half
  • Hamnet
  • Anxious People
  • Olive Kitteridge (Olive Kitteridge, #1)
  • The Midnight Library
  • Transcendent Kingdom
  • Shuggie Bain
  • Writers & Lovers
  • The Glass Hotel
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road
  • American Dirt
  • Such a Fun Age
  • Leave the World Behind
  • Klara and the Sun
  • The Four Winds
  • Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2)
  • Nothing to See Here
  • The Searcher
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Articles featuring this book

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our list,...
36 likes · 23 comments
“It makes you wonder. All the brilliant things we might have done with our lives if only we suspected we knew how.” 1997 likes
“Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. Don't you think? 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.” 299 likes
More quotes…