Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

There are 3 things that can separately make a story great for me – a strong character, a moving story or beautiful writing. Any one of these and i’m generally a happy reader. Bel Canto provided all 3. And then to show that she’s some kind of literary goddess Ann Patchett assembled an ensemble (go ahead – say it out loud a couple of times – it’s fun) cast where each character shown like a star in the night sky.
Our story begins at a birthday party in an unknown South American country. This party is thrown for a Japanese businessman to encourage him to build a factory in the region. Guests come from all over the world – and a famous opera singer provides the entertainment. Terrorists storm the party to kidnap a guest – who failed to show. Rather than a snatch and dash, the terrorists (three generals and their child) end up with a fancy house full of international hostages.
And thus our story unfolds. Things inside the house take on a dreamy surreal quality. Every day is the same – so what does it matter what you do? Relationships form and grow. The lines blur between the captives and their captors. And all the while there’s an underlying tension about the story’s resolution.
This book had one of my highest number of status updates ever. The writing was so beautiful – but more important it was sweet and funny and tender and moving. It was, most of all, human. Those little moments that capture who we are – not the big moments that we’d like everyone to see.
It wasn’t a sad story. Not overwrought. I think a lot of its magnificence came from its simplicity. An easy undemanding read that gives the reader far more than it takes.

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