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Bel Canto
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Archive - Additional Reads > Bel Canto - February 2015

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message 1: by Lynn, Moderator (new)

Lynn | 4120 comments Mod
Members' choice for additional BOM for February is Bel Canto

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.

Among the hostages are not only Hosokawa and Roxane Coss, the American soprano, but an assortment of Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Reuben Iglesias, the diminutive and gracious vice president, quickly gets sideways of the kidnappers, who have no interest in him whatsoever. Meanwhile, a Swiss Red Cross negotiator named Joachim Messner is roped into service while vacationing. He comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands, and the days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months.


Kirsten  (kmcripn) | 19 comments This is a wonderful book! I can't wait to read it again.


Linda | 67 comments Loved this book, but i read it last summer, so not again, yet.


Angela M I loved this too and read it quite a while ago . I'm going to try to reread it so I can join in .


Kirsten  (kmcripn) | 19 comments Picked it up from the library yesterday!


Valerie (darthval) | 411 comments I read this a couple of years ago and really liked it. I don't plan to reread it, but I will probably lurk around the discussion.


Kirsten  (kmcripn) | 19 comments RitaSkeeter wrote: "I didn't care for this book at all. I can see why other people would like it but it left me cold."

I'm surprised. When I first read it, I cried. I also read some of Patchett's other books like Run


Terri (terrilovescrows) | 7 comments I loved the book back when I read it until the end which I HATED


Janina (sylarana) | 692 comments I just finished it, but I had a hard time forcing myself to read it. I didn't care for any of the characters and the story was idk. . mostly just plain boring. It felt like reading a telenovella or something?
Not my book at all .. I'm astonished it's getting so many good reviews tbh.


message 10: by Lynn, Moderator (new)

Lynn | 4120 comments Mod
For anyone who wants to discuss this further, this thread is NOW OPEN TO SPOILERS


Some discussion questions which were issued by the publisher:

1. Describe Roxane Coss. What is it about her that makes such an impression on the other hostages and the terrorists? Is it merely that she is famous? How does her singing and the music relate to the story?

2. Even though he is given the opportunity to leave the mansion, Father Arguedas elects to stay with the hostages. Why does he decide to stay when he risks the possibility of being killed? As the narrative states, why did he feel, "in the midst of all this fear and confusion, in the mortal danger of so many lives, the wild giddiness of good luck?" (pg. 74). Isn't this an odd reaction to have given the situation? What role does religion play in the story?

3. are numerous instances in the story where Mr. Hosokawa blames himself for the hostages' situation. He says to Roxane, "But I was the one who set this whole thing in motion." Roxane replies with the following: "Or did I?" she said. "I thought about declining…. Don't get me wrong. I am very capable of blame. This is an event ripe for blame if I ever saw one. I just don't blame you." Is either one to blame for the situation? If not, who do you think is ultimately responsible?

4. Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa speak different languages and require Gen to translate their conversations. Do you think it's possible to fall in love with someone to whom you cannot speak directly?

5. "Roxane Coss and Mr. Hosokawa, however improbable to those around them, were members of the same tribe, the tribe of the hostages.... But Gen and Carmen were another matter" (pg. 294). Compare the love affairs of Gen and Carmen and Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa. What are the elements that define each relationship?

6. We find out in the Epilogue that Roxane and Gen have been married. How would you describe their relationship throughout the story? Thibault believes that "Gen and Roxane had married for love, the love of each other and the love of all the people they remembered" (pg. 318). What do you think of the novel's ending? Did it surprise you? Do you agree with Thibault's assessment of Gen and Roxane's motivations for marrying?

7. The garua, the fog and mist, lifts after the hostages are in captivity for a number of weeks. "One would have thought that with so much rain and so little light the forward march of growth would have been suspended, when in fact everything had thrived" (pg. 197). How does this observation about the weather mirror what is happening inside the Vice President's mansion?

8. At one point Carmen says to Gen, "'Ask yourself, would it be so awful if we all stayed here in this beautiful house?'" (pg. 206). And towards the end of the story it is stated: "Gen knew that everything was getting better and not just for him. People were happier." Messner then says to him, "'You were the brightest one here once, and now you're as crazy as the rest of them'" (pg. 302). What do you think of these statements? Do you really believe they would rather stay captive in this house than return to the "real" world?

9. When the hostages are finally rescued, Mr. Hosokawa steps in front of Carmen to save her from a bullet. Do you think Mr. Hosokawa wanted to die? Once they all return to their lives, it would be nearly impossible for him to be with Roxane. Do you think he would rather have died than live life without her?

10. The story is told by a narrator who is looking back and recounting the events that took place. What do you think of this technique? Did it enhance the story, or would you have preferred the use of a straight narrative?
(Questions issued by publisher.)


message 11: by Beth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth | 339 comments I just bought it and will read it next (when I finish the book I just started)


message 12: by Katy (new)

Katy Mann | 278 comments Beth wrote: "I just bought it and will read it next (when I finish the book I just started)"

Still working on this one.


message 13: by Kelli (new) - rated it 1 star

Kelli | 10 comments Terri wrote: "I loved the book back when I read it until the end which I HATED"

Me too, and I felt that the whole book was ruined for me. I felt as if everything good that happened was completely I pointless. I now hesitate to read any more books from Anna Patchett.


message 14: by Katy (new)

Katy Mann | 278 comments Angela M wrote: "I loved this too and read it quite a while ago . I'm going to try to reread it so I can join in ."

I'm about half-way through, should finish today.

I'm really liking it so far. They've discovered some of the soldiers are girls, including the one who is guarding Roxane.

I thought the bits about the TV and globe were interesting.

And poor Messner, his vacation ruined...

And I loved the bit about the two priests, especially the one who chose to stay.


message 15: by Beth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth | 339 comments I finished it and I really did like the book but like Kelli, I found the ending rather odd. Since I only finished it yesterday I am still "marinating" on it a bit....

This was the first book that I have read by Ann Patchett although I own one more.


message 16: by Lea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lea (leaspot) | 94 comments Terri wrote: "I loved the book back when I read it until the end which I HATED"

I'm pretending the Epilogue never happened. :-)


message 17: by Katy (new)

Katy Mann | 278 comments Lea wrote: "Terri wrote: "I loved the book back when I read it until the end which I HATED"

I'm pretending the Epilogue never happened. :-)"


Just finished it.

I'm wondering if the Epilogue was necessary?

Though we had been warned by Messner that something was going to happen, it went down fast. Their little idyll, that odd mix couldn't last forever - but the characters and readers felt it would -

But the ending still came fast and hard. It shocked. Maybe the writer felt the need to soften it, to bring the reader back into a familiar world, where major characters were "made whole" through marriage.


message 18: by Beth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth | 339 comments Katy, could be. But Roxane and Gen getting married? It just made no sense - he loved Carmen, she loved Mr. Hosokawa - so why would they suddenly decide they loved each other enough to get married? It just seems so odd.


message 19: by Katy (new)

Katy Mann | 278 comments Beth wrote: "Katy, could be. But Roxane and Gen getting married? It just made no sense - he loved Carmen, she loved Mr. Hosokawa - so why would they suddenly decide they loved each other enough to get married..."

I think maybe she was urged to soften that ending.

I don't know. Just a suggestion. Not saying I agree, just a thought as to why she might have created the Epilogue.


message 20: by Lea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lea (leaspot) | 94 comments Katy wrote: "I think maybe she was urged to soften that ending.

I don't know. Just a suggestion. Not saying I agree, just a thought as to why she might have created the Epilogue. "


I think you are right, Katy, that she wanted to soften the ending.

Unfortunately for me, I actually enjoyed the fast and hard ending without the Happily Ever After moment. I don't mind surprise endings, but the Epilogue like a cop out, because it didn't reflect what I felt we learned about the characters of Roxane and Gen.

My only conclusion: it never happened. :-)


message 21: by Katy (new)

Katy Mann | 278 comments Lea wrote: "Katy wrote: "I think maybe she was urged to soften that ending.

I don't know. Just a suggestion. Not saying I agree, just a thought as to why she might have created the Epilogue. "

I think you ar..."


I also liked the ending. I can't think of any other pace for that. As readers, we knew the odd idyllic Eden couldn't last - music, love, etc.

I think the Epilogue was done to soften it and make it more palatable.


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