For every book, there is that one reader who will love it more than any other book. For every reader, there is that one book that will make him or her love it more than any other book. According to me when books move readers, that is when the one can say that the book was written for him or her. For a long time now, I have wanted to write a review of this book, every time I have reread it. There were times I thought I could not do it justice. The book is of that magnificence and yet this time after I reread it for the fifth time, I thought to myself: I have to share this book with people who do not know about it. They must try reading it and feel if they do what I felt while reading it. With this thought, I share the book, “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett with you.
“Bel Canto” is about human connections and how they can be forged, how are they formed in the most unseemingly circumstances and how as people we are linked by one strong fact: We feel for the others. We try and see their point of view, their joys, their sorrows, because ultimately we are all searching for the same thing: Happiness. Opera and Terrorism are at the core of this novel. It is difficult to believe. Even I thought the same before picking it up, however once I did; I read it in two days, without doing anything else. There was this book and my time and nothing else in between.
The plot is this: In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned Soprano is invited to sing at a birthday party of an affluent Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa, so he can invest in business in that country. She sings for him and in the middle of it all, at the vice-president’s house (where the party is hosted), there is a terror attack and all the guests are taken hostage by eighteen terrorists and this is where the story begins. This happens while the American Opera singer, Roxane Cross is being kissed by her accompanist, quite suddenly at that. At the same time, a Swedish negotiator is called on for the task to communicate with the terrorists and know what their demands are. At the heart of it all, for the people – the hostages and terrorist, their lives change drastically so, as they come together in the act of living under the same roof – not by choice but by planned chance.
Ann Patchett is the master of storytelling in this book as far as I am concerned. Not a word is out of place and as a reader all I wanted to do was soak in the words and the feeling. The strangeness of the situation in the novel is dealt with grace and a lot of restrained emotion. The other diplomats’ feelings, their thoughts, the interconnections, the fear are all brought out magnificently in this book and all through one simple aspect: Music. For Patchett, that had to be the single most connect and it shows.
There were times I cried while reading the book. It was very overwhelming and I could not stop myself. The unreality of life within the mansion and outside of it has been depicted with great intelligence. While Mr. Hosokawa and Ms. Cross are at the core of the novel, Patchett has equal feeling towards her secondary characters and blooms their nature wonderfully so. It is almost as if the book is singing to you and all you have to do is read and listen. Take it all in as a reader and do not question anything, because where there is such great writing, you do not question it at all. I am only envious of you if you will be reading this book for the first time. You do not know what is coming your way. You will be glued to it.