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Bel Canto
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Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
Has anyone else read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett? I just finished it and I'd love to discuss it with someone!

Robbie Bashore | 141 comments Mod
I read it, but it's been a while. I don't think I ever got to discuss it. I'd be happy to refresh my memory and discuss.

Robbie Bashore | 141 comments Mod
Okay, so I'll start. What do you think about the plausibility of two people really unable to communicate having a true love relationship? Is it just about the physical, or is there more of a--spiritual, I guess--connection?

How would you have handled the situation, in general, do you think?

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
Yeah, I can understand having some sort of a connection, but I don't really believe that you can truly love someone unless you get to know them. I think you have to know about their values and beliefs and stuff.


What did you think of the ending? I thought it was sort of contrived. Why would THEY of all people end up together?

Robbie Bashore | 141 comments Mod
Oh, no! Now I have to go look that up. Plus I'm on vacation for a week. Remind me to get back to you when I return.


Do you mean the older Asian man and the singer?

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod

The younger Japanese man. The translator, Gen, and the singer. I mean, he was in love with Carmen. He was one of the only men in the house that didn't fancy himself to be in love with Roxane, and then he ends up marrying her. Just random and weird.

Heather Wilson | 4 comments I just finished this book and am dying to discuss it, too.

I didn't buy the Japanese businessman(I can't remember his name!Argh!/Roxane love story. I think the emotions they felt were based on the situation, and personal issues. I thought that Roxane was a bit tired of everyone talking "at" her as if she was merely a voice and not a person, and his silence was refreshing. He couldn't deluge her with praise after praise after praise, and I got the feeling that at that point, she needed that. As for him, she was the incarnation of opera music to him, his one passion, and so when given the chance to express his feelings, he did so. It wasn't love at all, at least not truly for one another. I think in the context of the story, where everything was so idealized, we're supposed to believe that one can love without verbally communicating, but I don't buy that at all.

Oh, the ending. My biggest bone of contention. The best part of the book to me was Gen/Carmen, and the epiloque completely ruined it. Especially because I don't know how soon it occurred. (There's a line where Gen says he called Ruben and Ruben said they were marrying too soon, so I'm guessing it might not have been that long after the shoot out.)

If Gen/Roxane had even been hinted at with some minor touches here and there, it would have worked. As it is, it's just idiotic and ruins the only true relationship that developed during the kidnapping.

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
Great comments, Heather. I totally agree.

Heather Wilson | 4 comments Thanks, Sarah. I just finished this book two days ago and I'm still thinking about it. Mixed feelings - I'm not sure if I loved it or hated it. :)

One thing that bothers me a lot, and kind of goes to the premise of it, is the universal appreciation of opera amongst the characters. It seems unrealistic to me. Does that bother anyone else?

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
I'm not sure, because I love opera. Also, my husband HATED it until he saw one in person, and now he loves it. But also, I think a lot of the people were only at the party to see Roxane perform, so it was like it was a room full of opera lovers.

Heather Wilson | 4 comments Great point. It would have been interesting if one person had expressed some dislike of it, though. You know, someone who is supposed to love opera because of their position in the rich/famous/powerful but hates it and only pretends to.

One thing I really did like about the book was the narrative style. It felt so formal, almost from an earlier time, a tone I thought was quite appropriate for the opera theme. Though the climax read a bit dispassionate to me.

Cassandra (cassandra18) I don't think the relationship between Gen and Roxane was that unbelievable. Shared experiences bring people together - people want to feel like someone understands them and feel connected to them. That's the whole premise of the book - the different ways that people connect and how weird it is how they do it sometimes. Is it so hard to believe that two people who went through such a strange and traumatic event would cling to each other afterwards?

Marilynn (marilynnv) | 4 comments I loved Bel Canto. It reminds me of the Russian hostage crisis of 2004 when all those children were killed. We never know how we will react in such a crisis. There's always the Stockholm Syndrome to consider.

Heather Wilson | 4 comments I guess it's just the execution of Gen/Roxane that bothers me. It was so abrupt and there was really no context given to their relationship. I have no idea how long after the crisis ended that it began, or how it began. And why Gen and Roxane? Why not Kato and Roxane, or the Russian, or any of the others? They all went through it together. In theory, she could have wound up with anyone, and I'm left wondering just why and how it was Gen.

One can argue that Gen and Roxane shared more since he was translating for her and her lover, and that they both had the additional trauma of losing lovers, and I'll buy those arguments. But those are the things I wish I had been shown in the book, that those things brought them together. I'm not against the pairing per se. I just would have been much more satisfied if I'd been given more information about it.

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
Agreed again, Heather!

Cassandra (cassandra18) Ahhh I see what you mean now. An understandable aspect to take issue with - I agree, it was a little too abrupt.

Meghan | 423 comments Mod
Okay, a couple years later...but I did read the book (finally).

I think it's funny that the things you all hated about the book are the things I loved best about it.

This is not my favorite book, but I enjoyed it. And it moved a lot more quickly the further into I got.

I did buy the Hosokawa and Roxanne relationship because it would have never happened in any other situation. He loved her, truly loved her, for her voice. But he never wanted to own her. One could say, even the accompanist, who loved her so much he was willing to die for her, wanted to keep her for his own. And I think she understood that while they continued to live in that house--in that time bubble--she could be with someone who would never try to make her "his", but rather just love her if she let him. I think that was a first experience for her.

I also think that time in the house made life feel unreal. Like you could do things that you wouldn't normally do and no one would care. What happens in Vegas sort of thing.

Lastly, Hosokawa is really the only person in the house who is Roxanne's equal in social status. And let's be honest, Roxanne is a bit of a diva. The other men may be rich, maybe hansome, but the most powerful man in that room was Hosokawa. And there is something about power that makes men attractive.

The other incident, the ending, I also can buy. People react differently after a traumatic situation. And while at times everyone forgot what this was, this was a very traumatic situation. They were held hostage for MONTHS--not hours, not days, MONTHS. And then, they witnessed the deaths of the people who held them captive. Not one or two or five of them. ALL the captors were killed in front of them. Imagine going to work with 100 people. Some you know well, some mostly by job title. And then picture 20 of them executed in front of you. You may not know them. You may not like them. But their deaths would leave you shaken and changed.

Roxanne and Gen both lost people they were especially close to and loved. That gave them something in common. It also linked them together in a way, so that by being together, they could keep the two people they lost "alive".

I do find their marriage credible. After 9-11, many wives of policemen and firefighters became widows. As is customary, their husband's co-workers made it their responsibility to look out for these families who lost so much. In the time that they mourned the loss, it became that the surviving friend and the widow would become lovers and that the friend would leave his wife for the widow. It doesn't seem possible, but it happened--more than a few times. Grief makes strange bedfellows.

Meghan | 423 comments Mod
Did anyone read the interview with Patchett (I had one in the back of my book)? She said she had read that this happened to an embassy in Peru(?)--some South American country. The hostages were held for over 4 months and then the captors were gunned down in the end, every one of them.

I thought that was really interesting that it was based on something that really did occur.

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