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 Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (02 Orange and 02 PEN/Faulkner Awards)

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Age : 50
Location : Geneva, Illinois

PostSubject: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (02 Orange and 02 PEN/Faulkner Awards)   Thu 15 Jan 2009, 8:35 am

In the spirit of overachieving, I happened to have this book in my TBR ("to be read") piles, lent to me by my Mom. It seems everywhere I looked, this book was universally liked. I knew quite a few people, in person, who read it and all said they enjoyed it. On the internet, I found no real bad reviews and many, many good ones. I thought this author's other book The Magician's Assistant (which I read a few years ago) was sort of mediocre, but decided I'd give this one a go anyway. Any book that won both the Orange and the PEN/Faulker awards the year after publication cannot be all bad.

So far, I really like it ~ an unusual and interesting premise/plot and the writing is beautiful. Review to follow.



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PostSubject: Re: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (02 Orange and 02 PEN/Faulkner Awards)   Thu 15 Jan 2009, 6:17 pm

Wow, Carolyn. You're really getting the reading done!
I read Bel Canto and enjoyed it also.
I also wanted to mention to you that on the WGN Radio station, there airs "The Kathy and Judy Show." They have a radio readers book club and Bel Canto was one of their books back in 2002. They always have the author of their selection on their show so if you go to the WGN website and find their show you'll be able to listen to Ann Patchett talk about Bel Canto.
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PostSubject: Re: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (02 Orange and 02 PEN/Faulkner Awards)   Thu 15 Jan 2009, 8:28 pm

Hey Karen ~ Nice to see you here today! I'm glad you liked Bel Canto. I'm almost done, so the review will come shortly. I will check out the WGN show. NPR often has the award winning authors as guests too and it's really interesting to hear their processes.

You know, I'm really underachieving for as much as I usually read (although Lori trumps me totally in numbers of books read during any given year). I average about 35 a year, but 2008 was higher with 60 exactly. But my goal is now to be more "well rounded" and not so much volume. I don't watch TV though, so that is where I find the extra time.

Hey, you should have Kelly join us when you get to the Young Adult topic. It would be nice to have a young person's perspective on whatever you decide to read. She can be like a guest reviewer Smile

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PostSubject: Review of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett   Sat 17 Jan 2009, 8:12 pm

Review of Bel Canto by Ann Patchet

I was stirred to read this from all the accolades, awards and positive reviews. I think the author has some talent, not brilliant, but definitely above average. She knows how to write of beauty, music and the little wonderful things in life that evade most people until they are close to losing them. This was a good "story" ... an interesting premise and a bit superficial but slightly interesting character study of people from different walks of life. That said, I felt it got pretty contrived by the end. The novel is about a group of high end, wealthy political and business people (and one mega famous opera singer) who are taken hostage by a terrorist group of sorts (albeit, nicer terrorists than I've ever read about) in a country in South America called only the "host country." The kidnapping takes place at the Vice President's oppulent home during a party for a Japanese business man lured there because of the guest singer, Roxana Coss. The host country erroneous believes that this Japanese businessman will build a plant in their country (he has no intention of doing so, only comes for the opera singer). The kidnapping goes awry from the inception when the targeted guest, the host country's President, decides not to attend to stay home and watch his favorite soap opera. So it becomes a story of captors and captives, the poor and the wealthy, and those in between (a Japanese translator and a Swiss Red Cross "go between"). Ultimately, the entire novel takes place in this situation and the terrorists become kind and the captives don't really want the situation to resolve because they are happy, some for the first time in their lives. A couple of love relationships are formed and some hostages find a new spark in their already existing lives. I won't give away the ending, but as the novel nears its conclusion, we are lead to believe that the terrorists are not thugs at all, but wonderful human beings who all have these really startling special talents that are being hidden, and all the self-absorbed driven political people are amazing as well (i.e., one gun-toting boy becomes a singer with unlimited potential; one other boy is brilliant at chess from only watching it being played; another captor a beautiful girl, not a boy at all, with a talent for languages; our hostages become a skilled chef, the Vice President is a happy homemaker and gardener who decides to adopt the gun-toting fellow who is brilliant at chess and finally, a Japanese businessman is a world-class pianist and he's been hiding his talent). There wasn't an average person in the lot. It is at that point I rolled my eyes, but I suppose it's kind of a fable. You could also shoot a canon through the implausible holes in the whole terrorist/hostage situation, in addition to its ridiculously confused genesis. For pure entertainment though, it succeeds, but to convince me that "we are all the same" and such, that did not work. I also did not buy how kind the terrorists were. There are many little side stories that are good, a slice of people's lives, people from many different countries. If this were a realistic book about real people truly taking inventory of their lives in a terrorist situation, it would be a five-star book. But it's just sort of a campy fable with the tragic ending, albeit a pretty entertaining one. Overall, recommended as an easy to read story and entertaining, but I do not think this is an award-winning novel whatsoever.

Three out of Five Stars

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