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September 13, 2012 / Leslie

Audiobook Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann PatchettBel Canto
by Ann Patchett
Narrated by Anna Fields

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.

I read this book as part of a read-along with Sheila at Book Journey. There will be more discussion in the read-along post at Book Journey on Saturday, September 15th.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. laurelrainsnow / Sep 13 2012 11:07 am

    I have enjoyed several books by Ann Patchett, and I thought I’d read this one…but no, after reading your review, I realize that I haven’t. Now I have to consider whether or not to read it! Thanks for your thoughts.


    • Leslie / Sep 13 2012 12:09 pm

      I was expecting more action, but it’s more about relationships and what happens to people cut off from their normal lives and thrown into trying circumstances.


  2. Suko / Sep 13 2012 12:00 pm

    Leslie, thanks for your honest review. I have a different book by this author, waiting to be read!


    • Leslie / Sep 13 2012 12:08 pm

      I enjoy the author’s writing style. This just wasn’t one of my favorites.


  3. Sheila (Book Journey) / Sep 13 2012 12:02 pm

    Oh my gosh – this is super embarrassing! I though we posted on the 15th. I knew I had too much going right now…LOL. Hee hee. You rock and I need to send out a group email about my epic fail. This is happening…. I am just late 😉


    • Leslie / Sep 13 2012 12:07 pm

      I figured it was going to be one of your afternoon posts since BBAW was filling up the mornings.


  4. Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) / Sep 13 2012 12:53 pm

    I thought Run was pretty good, and if I were to read another Patchett book, it would probably be this one.


  5. BermudaOnion / Sep 13 2012 3:02 pm

    A lot of people rave over Patchett’s work. I read State of Wonder last year and felt about it the way you felt about this one – it started out strong and kind of fizzled. I have this one and will probably read it one day.


  6. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Sep 13 2012 7:11 pm

    I listened to the audio as well a few years ago and had much the same reaction as you. For several years I felt I was missing something by not reading this one and when I finished ==I had a I hoped for more feeling.


  7. Beth F / Sep 14 2012 7:25 am

    I wonder if this is better in print. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’ll keep my expectations low.


  8. Leeswammes / Sep 14 2012 10:16 am

    Thanks for the review. I probably will read this at some point, but it’s a pity it isn’t quite as good as some people make it look. I loved State of Wonder so at least I will cut Bel Canto some slack. We’ll see!


  9. stacybuckeye / Sep 21 2012 8:55 pm

    Like you, I loved the writing, but I was in the ‘I hate the ending’ camp. I will try Patchett again, but am in no hurry to do so.


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