Audiobook Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publish Date: Audio CD: Sept 2007, Orig: 2001
Format: Audio: 11 hours | 24 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Easy – Intermediate
Rating: 3 of 5
A birthday bash is in full swing in honor of a Japanese businessman in the hopes that he will build new factories and bring employment and business to an unidentified South American country. The party is being held at the home of the country’s vice president and the entertainment is provided by one of the world’s greatest opera singers, Roxanne Coss.
When the house lights go down at the end of the performance, something doesn’t feel right. The guests soon realize that a group of terrorists has taken over the building and the guests are now hostages. The terrorists wanted to capture the president of the country, but he decided not to attend the party, opting instead to stay home and watch a soap opera.
It soon becomes apparent that these terrorists are not killers. They are mostly young, inexperienced children. Now they are faced with negotiating and compromising but instead the ordeal becomes a standoff. Hostages and terrorists become friends and everyone begins to settle in to this new way of living. As we watch the relationships evolve it becomes unclear whether or not the hostages want to be freed and if the terrorists even want to come to an agreement. Things can’t go on like this forever.
Much of the story is about the evolving relationships between the hostages and the terrorists, and the relationships among the hostages themselves. It’s written in the third person so we, the reader or listener, are observers, watching the drama play out. We can only assume what the hostages were feeling. The book was beautifully written in Ann Pachett’s lovely, lyrical style; the audio was a pleasure to listen to, but the story itself was not that memorable or compelling.
The story started out strong but after a few hours of listening it began to drag. I feel I should have cared more about the characters, but I didn’t. I just couldn’t put myself in their position or relate to their actions. And when the story ended, I was happy to move on to my next book. I didn’t have a problem with the ending, which others have said they disliked, and could see it coming; there were few solutions left at that point.
Many people have loved this book and I admit my problem was with the story itself, not the writing. Did I like the book? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes, with reservations. If one is looking to read a cerebral, thought-provoking book and is interested in the topic, this might be a good choice.
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