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Rory Book Discussions > Bel Canto

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message 1: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Hi ladies. I hope things went well with The Name of the Rose. I actually intended to read that one, started it, but couldn't quite get into it. I was sad, because I had always heard good things about it. Hope you ladies enjoyed.

I am excited to be moderating Bel Canto for March. I hope to start tonight. I hope everyone is going to try to get to this one. At only 300 pages, it doesn't seem too daunting. Looking forward to some good discussion!

message 2: by El (new)

El The upcoming book on the top of the group says the next book after Name of the Rose is Passage to India...?

message 3: by Dini, the master of meaning (new)

Dini | 691 comments Mod
A Passage to India is for April. Just got the chance to change the currently-reading shelf to Bel Canto so it should be OK by now :)

message 4: by Kristi (new)

Kristi (kristilarson) I read this book a couple years ago and loved it! I think it was the first that I read by Ann Patchett. I don't have time to re-read it, but I'll probably leaf through the book and remind myself of the characters and plot. I think everyone will like this one.

message 5: by Nita (new)

Nita (nitacheetah) Ok, I finished this book last night. I really wanted to like this book. From the very beginning, there's a bold and fantastic set-up. And then, it falls very flat for me. Perhaps because it seems so focused on the Opera singer and on opera in general, and I just can NOT relate to that. I found the feelings toward the opera singer that the other characters felt to be incredibly....unbelievable. I felt that the author has a wonderful story-telling ability, it just wasn't a story that resonated with me. Overall, a story about opera...and in the background, a story about how even in the most dire of circumstances, we are simply human.

Tanya (aka ListObsessedReader) (listobsessed) | 4 comments I finished this one a few days ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm interested in seeing what everyone thinks about the epilogue. A lot of the reviews I've read have stated that they wished she had left it off. I understand why she wrote it, and why what happened in it happened, but I'm not sure that I exactly liked it either...

message 7: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I'm about half way through. I must agree with Nita a bit at this point. I feel the characters to be a bit unbelievable as well! I will save my comments for when I'm finished.

message 8: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I'm going to copy and paste a little info on Ann Patchett. If anyone wants to leave their thoughts on her other works...feel free. This is the first I have read from her.

Ann Patchett is an American author. She received the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002 for her novel Bel Canto. Patchett's other novels include Run, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, and The Magician's Assistant, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Nashville Banner Tennessee Writer of the Year Award in 1994.

For nine years, Patchett worked at Seventeen magazine. Patchett has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, ELLE, GQ, Gourmet, and Vogue. She is the editor of the 2006 volume of the anthology series The Best American Short Stories.

She is friends with fellow writer Lucy Grealy and has written a memoir about their relationship, Truth and Beauty: A Friendship. Patchett's latest novel, Run, was released in October 2007. What now?, published in April 2008, is an essay based on a commencement speech she delivered at her alma mater in 2006.

message 9: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
And here's a little info on writing the book...

Patchett was inspired by the Lima Crisis when she watched the crisis on the news. The opera in the story was added when she thought how operatic the crisis was. However, Patchett did not know anything about opera prior to writing the book. To build a knowledge of opera, Patchett read books about opera, attended local theatre performances and listened to opera whenever she could.

Patchett has stated that writing her books has been a progression. She always wanted to write with an omniscient third person narrator, but stated that she always went back to a narrative structure she could handle. She was pleased when she was able to write this book in the narrative she wanted.

message 10: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
And finally, on the "Lima crisis"...

The Japanese embassy hostage crisis began on December 17, 1996 in Lima, Peru, when 14 members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took hostage hundreds of high-level diplomats, government and military officials and business executives who were attending a party at the official residence of Japan's ambassador to Peru, Morihisha Aoki, in celebration of Emperor Akihito's 63rd birthday.

Most of the hostages were soon released. After being held hostage for 126 days, the remaining dignitaries were freed on 22 April 1997, in a raid by Peruvian Armed Forces commandos, during which one hostage, two commandos, and all the MRTA militants died. The operation was perceived by most Peruvians to be a great success, and it gained worldwide media attention.

Reports have since emerged suggesting that a number of the insurgents had been summarily executed after surrendering. These findings have prompted civil suits against military officers by relatives of dead militants.

message 11: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I pulled a discussion question that we could...discuss! Try to avoid spoilers if you can. Anyone have thoughts on this character?

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?

message 12: by Kayla (last edited Mar 09, 2010 03:56PM) (new)

Kayla | 130 comments I'm half-way through the book and I have to admit I'm disappointed so far. Based on many of the reviews I've read, I expected to feel inspired and moved but I haven't experienced any of that.

The story just does not seem realistic to me. There's no tension among the hostages even though there are a bunch of unstable teenage boys welding huge guns who walk all over them, and where is the amazing friendship and love that the hostages and terrorists are supposed to be feeling for one another? They all still seem like strangers to me.

message 13: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I'm almost done--one chapter to go. I have found it a bit unrealistic as well. I like her writing style, but it seems a bit implausible to me. I would not be opposed to trying something different by this author, but this story, as someone said, started with an interesting premise and got a bit sleepy for me.

message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Ah, this is one of my all-time favorites. I thought the characters were fantastic and, having read of real hostage situations, the interactions seemed very believable to me. I thought Patchett did a fantastic job of building tension.

message 15: by Emily (new)

Emily | 7 comments I was completely engrossed in this novel until the end. It seemed a little forced to me like she wasn't sure how to end it. I really wished she would of left the epilogue out of it. I have some ideas why she included it, but it just really bothered me.

message 16: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I liked the ending. I though it was appropriate to the situation. I agree with Emily that I didn't really like the epilogue. I don't think the book needed it.

message 17: by Brigid (new)

Brigid (sillybrigid) | 13 comments **I just wanted to warn you all that my comment contains some spoilers, so don't read it if you haven't read the whole book!** :)

I just finished the book. I liked it but didn't love it. While I didn't find it all that believable, I didn't find it distracting. I loved the way she jumped from one character's perspective to another's. I also like Patchett's narrative voice. However, I also wish there had been more tension, and I strongly disliked the epilogue. It felt inconsistent and dishonest. The ending was sudden and jarring, but I think it stands alone without the somewhat tidy epilogue. I really liked Gen but did not like his relationship with Carmen. Wasn't she 17? I don't care what the circumstances are. I don't think Gen -- a sensible, intelligent man in his late-20s -- would have acted on his attraction to a teenage girl. I could actually get past the fact that she was his captor, but the age thing was too much for me. Overall, though, I found it a pleasant read, and I think a really great screenplay could be made from the book.

message 18: by Robbie (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments I think the Gen and Carmen thing is totally believable. That much proximity for so much time with so much tension--she could have been much younger, and it probably still would have been believable.

message 19: by Meghan (new)

Meghan I'm just into the first chapter. And while I find the story interesting or rather the writing interesting, it's not holding my attention. And after reading most of the posts here, I'm glad I'm not in the minority, which I find interesting because everything I was told and heard prior to reading this book was how stunningly wonderful this it was.

One thing I did like was how she described the hostage scene in the beginning. How people fell asleep because by laying down they were able to let go of some of their nervousness. I thought she wrote that very well because I could place myself in the scene and think about what would I do in a similar situation. (For example, would you make sure your dress didn't wrinkle because you expected to be rescued right away or would just flop down and not care because you expected to die and who then cares about a stupid dress?)

message 20: by Brigid (new)

Brigid (sillybrigid) | 13 comments *More spoilers in this comment!*

Robbie -- If it had been any other character, I may have bought it, but it just didn't seem to make sense for Gen. And maybe it would have bothered me less if there was even any thought about whether or not sleeping with a teenage girl was OK. Patchett mentioned the moral qualms with Mr. Hosokawa, a married man, sleeping with Roxane, but she didn't even bring up Carmen's age again.

message 21: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Mar 27, 2010 07:21PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I read a GoodReads review of this book that brought up an interesting point.


She mentioned that one big theme of Bel Canto was that how, despite the dire circumstances, the hostages all seemed to be brought together by way of the opera music. And how the opera star is regarded as almost an angel by everyone. However, we all have our different tastes. And opera is not for everyone. I must admit that if I were held captive away from my family, it would take more than opera to lift my spirits. After a while, it might even start to annoy me.

But I am nitpicking, I know. The writing was very good. Again, I just didn't 100% buy into the premise.

Thank you all for your comments!

Has anyone read anything by this author besides this selection?

message 22: by Kristi (new)

Kristi (kristilarson) I have read The Patron Saint of Liars and Run, both after I had read Bel Canto. I really liked Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars, but Run was only OK for me. It's been a few years since I've read any of these three books, though, so I couldn't give a lot of insight into why I feel this way.

message 23: by Danielle (new)

Danielle (ellstar) | 3 comments I'm completely amazed to read some of the posts here, I thought Bel Canto was one of the most beautiful books I've read in a very long time. Maybe you do need to be familiar with opera to feel it out, but the story and theme of mutual love, comraderie and understanding despite such strife really struck me to the core.

message 24: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I'm glad you liked it, Danielle! I know a lot of people who did. Maybe it does take a music lover to truly appreciate it.

message 25: by Brigid (new)

Brigid (sillybrigid) | 13 comments I actually enjoy opera. It wasn't the opera aspect of the book that I didn't like.

message 26: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Just out of curiosity, does anyone know what context this book was mentioned in, on the show?

message 27: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 74 comments I really enjoyed the book. Someone above mentioned it slowing down a bit in the middle and I did feel that. Overall, I was moved by the story and the relationships. I found the subject to be quite thought provoking and could see how situations could occur like they did. I'm not familiar with opera, but the book aroused interest in me. Given the opportunity I would definitely pursue going to the opera and have it on a list of things to check out on itunes when I visit next.

message 28: by Erin (new)

Erin | 76 comments Sorry to be chiming in so late, but this book is so beautifully written that I had to add my two cents. I got goosebumps reading specific passages. And then would feel compelled to read them out loud to my dh.

Strangely, though, it took me two months to finish it. I'm hard pressed to tell you why. I didn't feel any real sense of momentum until I neared the end - and that's not what I was expecting from a novel about a mass kidnapping. Maybe the vignettes about various characters were so self-sufficient that it was like reading a series of short stories; I could completely enjoy reading about one character without feeling the need to go on to the next. Maybe I secretly feared that I knew how this story would end up, and I didn't want to get there. But gradually, I was pulled more and more into learning how things would turn out. By the end, the library was sending me threatneing messages to bring it back, but I couldn't let it go.

And I'm so glad I didn't. I loved this book. Would have given it 4.5 stars if I could. I'll need to buy it now, so that I can have it on my shelf when the compulsion hits to read it again.

message 29: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
You make good points, Erin. Maybe it's the lack of momentum that turned me off, but that might be just what a more patient reader might enjoy about it. I'm not a big fan of slow reads, but for someone who takes the time to truly relish the story, I can see how they would enjoy this. Glad you liked it!

message 30: by Meghan (new)

Meghan Did anyone read the author interview at the back of the book? I thought it was interesting to note that Patchett based this on a true event--apparently the Japanese embassy was held hostage in South America and the hostages were held for over 4 months. In the end, all captors were shot dead in the take over.

Also, Patchett said that what she likes about opera is the melodrama--the larger than life situations. So she put in some larger than life situations into her story (i.e., probably the ones that everyone seemed to dislike so much) as an homage to opera.

I actually thought the book picked up speed the further into I got. The beginning was what was sluggish for me.

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