Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

About the book

Latin terrorists storm an international gathering hosted by an underprivileged country to promote foreign interest and trade, only to find that their intended target, the President, has stayed home to watch his favourite soap opera on TV. Among the hostages are a world class opera singer and her biggest fan, a Japanese tycoon who has been persuaded to attend the party on the understanding that she will perform half a dozen arias after dinner.
The tycoon’s engaging and sympathetic translator plays a vital role in the subsequent relationships between so many different nationalities closeted together, interpreting not only the terrorists’ negotiations but also the language of love between lovers who cannot understand what the other is saying.
Ultimately, it is the terrorist strike that does more to promote foreign relations than anyone could have hoped to achieve with the party.

Reviewed by Andover NWR:

The book set the scene perfectly – all sense of time ceased, The tension was palpable, at the same time we were lulled into a false sense of security. The epilogue surprised everyone. All agreed – an excellent read.

Rating: ***

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12 thoughts on “Bel Canto by Ann Patchett”

  1. Review by Friends of Farnborough Reading group:
    One reader couldn’t get past the first 30 pages. Most of the others really enjoyed it.
    Star rating: ** plus 1/2 !

  2. Review by U3A No 3 Reading Group:
    Enjoyed by all but one of the group. Characters well drawn and believable. Good suspense and covered so many aspects of love. Didn’t like the wedding at the end. Unnecessary we thought.
    Star rating: ***

  3. Review by Denmead Reading Circle
    Well liked by group. One saw it in musical form (classical). End strange but inevitable. One new reader ‘tried hard’, didn’t make it but will try again.
    Star rating: ****

  4. Review by Weston Readers:
    Not well received – no-one enjoyed it. Slow, self-conscious – certainly mirrored the boredom of such a hostage situation. Several read another book while ‘reading’ this one. Would not recommend it.
    Star rating: none

  5. Review by Ecchinswell Reading Group:
    We all enjoyed this book. There was a section in the middle which we found to be slow – perhaps this was to reflect the monotony of the situation. The ending surprised us all. No general consensus on the reason for Gen and Roxanne’s marriage.
    Star rating: ***

  6. Review by Havant Reading Group:
    All the members of the reading group enjoyed this book. The writing was of a very high quality and it deserved to win the Orange Prize.
    Star rating: ****

  7. Review by Milford Reading Group:
    Enjoyed very much by 3 members but not enjoyed by others. Great study in human relationships and communications between strangers despite language difficulties. The ending of the book seemed contrived but no other ending really seemed possible. The wedding did not seem appropriate.
    Star rating: ***

  8. Review by Barnfield Book Club:
    A mixed reaction within the group e.g. ‘Wonderful, couldn’t put the book down’ , ‘Too contrived to be plausible’, ‘Good character development’. Some club members felt belief had to be suspended and the plot enjoyed like an operatic drama. Lack of exact geographical detail made the story rather vague. The atmosphere was rather claustrophobic. No-one predicted the details of the ending.
    Star rating: **

  9. Review by October Books Reading Group:
    This novel about love affairs in a hostage situation provoked a variable response; some enjoyed it greatly, others found it hard going.
    Star rating: **

  10. Review by White Lion, Yateley:
    This book caused a great deal of discussion.
    Star rating: ***

  11. Review by Sandy’s Reading Group:
    An enjoyable read. The dynamics of the developing relationships were well drawn, the hopes and dreams for the future were quite poignant. The restricted physical environment led to very intense focus on the relationships and the individual characters were well defined. An interesting premise – a book to be recommended.
    Star rating: ***

  12. Review by Alverstoke Ladies Reading Group:
    Some found it contrived and boring. Very slow pace but picked up towards the end. Frustrated at not knowing where it was set initially – garlic was the clue.
    Star rating: **

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