Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

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*****Bel Canto

by Ann Patchett

Reviewed August 24, 2004.
HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2001.  318 pages.
Available at Ramstein Library (F PAT).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #2, Literary Fiction

After I reviewed Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett, my friend Erin MacLellan (author of Run from the Nun) told me that Bel Canto, by the same author, was one of her favorite books.  I told Erin that I would have rated Truth and Beauty with more stars if the story hadn’t been so sad, but that the writing was wonderful.  I know that some Sembach Library customers have also told me about Bel Canto, but I’m afraid I don’t remember who.  So special thanks to Erin for prompting me to finally read it.

Bel Canto is an amazing and beautiful story, not quite like any other book I’ve ever read.  The book begins:  “When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her.”  It goes on, in a lovely roundabout way, focusing on details, to explain that there was a birthday party with an opera singer performing, and it was interrupted by terrorists.

The book must have been written before September 11th, since I doubt that you could write a charming story about terrorists now.  These terrorists, so young as to seem children, except for the three generals, had meant to grab the President of the small South American country, but he had stayed home to watch his favorite soap opera.

The terrorists instead take as hostages the people at the party.  Before long, they are persuaded to let the women and less important people go, except for Roxane Coss, the opera singer with the golden voice.

The terrorists keep the hostages for months, and the house becomes a world of its own.  These hostages, important men from many different countries, had never had so much time on their hands before.  The child terrorists had never lived in such a beautiful house.  All the lives begin to revolve around Roxane Coss and her wonderful singing.  Except for the Frenchman deeply in love with his wife, they stop thinking about their lives outside.

I have to say that I don’t like the ending of this book, but the author does drop hints right at the start so as not to shock you.  In a way, she pulls you into the same dream world as the characters, one that you don’t want reality to intrude on.

This book is truly a masterpiece that will stick with me for a very long time.

Reviews of other books by Ann Patchett:
State of Wonder
Truth and Beauty

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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