Tag Archives: Bel Canto

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett Title: The Dutch House
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1526618757
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a novel of many wonders. It is a box of things that are seen at first glance, only to discover a secret opening, where new things emerge from. This book gives, and gives, and gives some more. As a reader, as a fan of Patchett’s works, as an ardent admirer of what she puts to paper, my experience with The Dutch House has been surreal, mixed with nostalgia, and snatches of memory of my own childhood (though not this morbid or unfortunate).

What is a novel? What should be a novel? Is there such a thing as an ideal novel? Who decides that, if there is something like that? The critic? The reader? Or all of us, trying to find answers to questions of meaning of life, hope, and love as we turn the pages of novel after novel, searching for truths unknown as we move from one work of fiction to another?

The Dutch House is a fairy-tale. It is also gothic in nature when you least expect it to be. It is also full of misery, and then surprises you with moments of hope and togetherness. It is the story of two siblings – how they lose their home, how they understand each other (or not), and how they reclaim some of their lost home.

We are introduced to Danny (the narrator), and his older sister Maeve right at the beginning of the book. Their introduction to their would-be stepmother Andrea is where the book starts, and that’s when the series of events unfold in front of the reader – travelling between the past and the present of the novel.

The fairy-tale element runs strong, with a fair share of the Gothic that adds to the strong plot. Not to forget the way Patchett builds on the characters – from the housekeepers to the people that enter and exit from the siblings’ lives. Each character and each plot point is thought of to the last minute detail and maybe therefore this novel is as close to being perfect or it already is in more than one way.

What I found most interesting was the use of narration – by using the first-person narrator technique in a novel where time is of most importance, we see events unfold through two perspectives – the younger Danny and the older Danny. A doppelgänger effect, adding another layer to the complexity of the book.

The Dutch House is deceptively simple. It is a book that seems so easy to read on the surface, and it is. However, it is in joining the dots that are far and wide that adds to the reading experience. It is for this reason and more that Patchett is one of my top 10 favourite writers and will always be. She makes you feel, she makes you internalise how you think and feel as you read her books, and more than anything else she reminds you that being humane is the heart of it all.

Book Review: Run by Ann Patchett

Run by Ann Patchett Title: Run
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Harper Perennial
ISBN: 9780061340642
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I remember when I first read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I was stunned. I was beyond stunned. I found myself crying in parts and pieces of the book, which doesn’t happen too often to me. While Bel Canto was about strangers getting to know each other under the most unlikely circumstance, Run is about family, roots, and love at a larger level and perspective.

“Run” happened to me while reading The Novel Cure and of course I had embarked on the Novel Cure challenge anyway, so it had to be read in that order. “Run” is not an easy book to write about – not because the plot is challenging or the story is difficult to follow. The reason it is challenging is the voice Patchett gives her characters & the conflicting and most unlikely situations she throws them in.

Bernard Doyle – the former mayor of Boston, only wants to see one of his sons grow up and enter politics. His oldest son Sullivan is out to follow his heart. Tip and Teddy Doyle are inclined to do what each wants to – work with fishes – aquaculture and the second one wants to become a minister. An incident involving a mother and her daughter on a cold winter night is what shapes the entire course of the book. What Bernard then wants to do is keep his children safe. That becomes the sole objective. Nothing really matters.

The tone of the book is fast-paced and yet you tend to stop through paragraphs and pages and mull over what you have read. Patchett has this uncanny writing style – she writes so nonchalantly (or so it seems) and suddenly the reader is left astounded with sentences, that are packed with emotion and hit the reader in the face. Run is a book that you will go back to and reread at some point, because it demands to be reread. It is that good.

Next Up on the Challenge: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett Title: Bel Canto
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Olive Editions, Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-200172-6
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 401
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

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.

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