Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto was Janet’s choice of book for May and she felt it was a love it or hate it book. Janet chose this book because she liked the idea of opposing interests and cultures and seeing what happened when the characters were isolated together.
‘Bel Canto’ means ‘beautiful song’ and it is opera that draws all of the characters together. With opera, kidnap and romance being the main themes of the book, the general consensus is that the entire group enjoyed it, with June enjoying all of the Spanish bits. The book has definite parallels to Big Brother with funny behaviours and the forming of relationships that would not normally have done so.
The book is written in an omniscient third person narrative which most of the group liked. However Morag and I have both recently read a lot of books with just a couple of central characters and this could explain our initial difficulties in getting into the book.
With no graphic details of violence it became a rather girly account. Karen said it appeared to enter a dream-like state with inept terrorists and their demands over time were just for the sake of going through the motions. Morag could imagine the rescue scene in a film being accompanied by loud and striking opera music and sweeping camera shots.
Generally, we felt the book was very improbable in the sense that they all eventually turned to culture, be it chess or music, and feelings of altruism dissipated. Their passions came across rather than their differences. Janet felt the terrorists died at their peak; none of them would ever become a top chess player or world-class opera singer. What was interesting to note was that all of the characters actually blossomed, with the exception of the Red Cross man. In terms of the love story between Roxanne and Mr Hosokawa, Morag did not find this plausible whereas Karen did.
Most of the group did not like the epilogue. Personally, I felt it showed the two characters were trying to maintain a connection to their captivity and those that they had loved and lost.