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Book 73 Completed

November 24, 2010

Bel Canto is a flawed book, despite its beautiful sentences, paragraphs, and tense conclusion. It’s not that I want all my hostage books to play out like Die Hard or Inside Man (two stories that I never get tired of) — I think a well-crafted, character-driven book about Stockholm Syndrome sounds fantastic in theory. But something about Patchett’s book was just a little too schmaltzy, a little too convenient, and I never felt like I truly cared about what was happening inside that house. (It’s almost like she cared more about the craft of each page than letting the story get away from her…and the result is dull and lifeless action in the face of severe danger or unabashed romance).

Dull. That’s really how I can describe it best. Boring until the inevitable climax — so, I felt like there were 50 pages or so where I felt myself sucked into the action — but that is not enough to grant this book a glowing review. Books that meander and don’t engage are one thing…but Bel Canto and Patchett seem to be operating with a certain degree of pretentiousness. I think you’d have to pretentious to write a book about a real-life hostage situation that lacks excitement, tension, yelling, gunfire…I don’t know…anything that would normally accompany kidnapping, death, forced submission. Instead, there was a lot of this interior dialogue while I was reading, “Seriously folks…what is going on here…you’re kidding me, right?”

What this book does talk about: Opera. And my complaint echoes others who have read this book…it’s unbelievable that every man in the vice-president’s house would suddenly find themselves madly in love with Roxanne Coss just because she opens her mouth and sings an aria. Not just appreciative. These men love her. That hasn’t really been the case in my own life…but perhaps that’s because a soprano who can belt out the world’s most beloved operas is more appealing than the alto in musical theater who plays all the goofy character roles. I digress.

I’m not even going to start on the epilogue — which I found bizarre and incongruous. I would love to rant about it, but then I’d be spoiling the end; and since the end is the only thing with any ounce of passion and emotion, I’d hate to steal that reading experience away from people who want to wade through the other 250 pages to get there.

I feel like the actual Lima Crisis in Peru probably deserved better treatment than this book; and because Patchett does prove herself as a gifted writer, I won’t abandon her work entirely for the future. But I don’t think you can add Bel Canto to a list of books I love.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jessica permalink
    December 1, 2010 7:38 pm

    This is one of those “paperback classics” we were always promoting on table displays at B&N, but now I think I’ll leave it there. Good to know!

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