I started this remarkable book in August because it was the selection for my f2f book club. Unfortunately I didn't finish it and I had to set it aside to finish up a few challenges. I picked it back up this month and finished the last half.
Bel Canto received the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002. The term 'Bel Canto' refers to a style of singing. Since part of the book's focus is on a woman who mesmerizes her audiences with her beautiful singing the title is apropos.
The story is set in an unknown South American country. In an attempt to draw foreign money into their economy the country hosts a birthday party for a rich Japanese businessman with a famous opera singer providing the entertainment. In the middle of the party the guests are taken hostage by a radical militant group. All the woman but one, the opera singer, are released. The hostage situation drags on for over 4 months.
"What begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion." (from the back cover)
I really enjoyed my first Patchett book and look forward to reading more. She skillfully conveyed the feeling of complete closure from the real world. The hostages and terrorists both lived inside a bubble of space and time.
"The day no longer progressed in its normal, linear fashion but instead every hour circled back to its beginning, every moment was lived over and over again. Time in the manner in which they had all understood it, was over."A few other quotes that I liked. I won't share all the passages I marked.
"Time could barely pull the second hand forward on the clock..."
". . . as if the world had become a giant train station in which everything was delayed until further notice."
"The quality of the gift depends on the sincerity of the giver. It also helps if the gift is something the receiver actually wants."
"At the moment one is sure that all is lost, look at what is gained."
"Step back," Roxane said, and shooed them away with her hand. "I'm going to want that air."
"It's easier to love a woman when you can't understand a word she's saying."
"He would not have chosen to draw attention to himself, and without his playing the story might have missed him altogether. But there was a need, a specific request, and so he stepped forward."