2002 PEN/Faulkner Award
Winner of the 2002 Orange Prize
Finalist for the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award
Synopses & Reviews
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.
Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had ever known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music is the only common language. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.
Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto engenders in the reader the very passion for art and the language of music that its characters discover. As a reader, you find yourself fervently wanting this captivity to continue forever, even though you know that real life waits on the other side of the garden wall. Bel Canto is a virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers. It is a novel to be cherished.
"Bel Canto has all the qualities one has come to expect from a classic Ann Patchett novel: grace, beauty, elegance, and magic." Madison Smartt Bell
"Patchett creates a remarkably compelling chronicle of a multinational group of the rich and powerful held hostage for months....Readers may intellectually reject the author's willingness to embrace the terrorists' humanity, but only the hardest heart will not succumb....Brilliant." Kirkus Reviews
"Let me put this plainly: Ann Patchett has written the best book I've read in a long, long time. Bel Canto is a masterpiece true to its title, a beautiful song, a broad, bold entirely original love story destined to become an international classic. This is the book we all wait for, the one we thrust into the hands of friends, saying, 'You've got to read this! You've got to read this now!'" A. Manette Ansay, author of Midnight Champagne
"Patchett's tragicomic novel a fantasia of guns and Puccini and Red Cross negotiations invokes the glorious, unreliable promises of art, politics, and love. Against this grand backdrop, the smallest gestures bloom with meaning." The New Yorker
"[An] elegantly alluring book....Although this novel is entirely housebound, at the vice presidential mansion, Ms. Patchett works wonders to avoid any sense of claustrophobia and keeps the place fresh at every turn." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Ann Patchett's latest novel sneaks up so stealthily on the reader that before you know it, you've already skipped a meal or missed your meeting....The power and majesty of music, the power and acceptability of good writing. It's all there in Ann Patchett's Bel Canto." John Valentine, Independent Online
From the bestselling author of The Magician's Assistant comes a marvelous novel of love, opera, and terrorism set in South America. Two couples, complete opposites, fall in love; sexual identities become confused; and a horrific imprisonment is transformed into an unexpected heaven on earth.
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.
About the Author
Ann Patchett is the author of three previous novels, The Patron Saint of Liars,
which was a New York Times
Notable Book of the Year; Taft,
which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize; and The Magician's Assistant,
which earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1994. She is also a recipient of the Nashville Banner
Tennessee Writer of the Year Award. Patchett has written for many publications, including New York Times Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Village Voice, GQ, Elle, Gourmet,
Patchett attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she took writing classes with Alan Gurganus, Russell Banks, and Grace Paley. While an undergraduate, she sold her first story to the Paris Review. Patchett then went on to attend the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, and in 1990, she won a residential fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Here she wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, which was awarded a James A. Michner/Copernicus Award for a book in progress. The Patron Saint of Liars was adapted into a TV movie for CBS in 1997, and Patchett wrote the screenplay for Taft, which has been optioned by Morgan Freeman for a feature film.
She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Review A Day
"There are quite a few improbable aspects to Bel Canto
, but the handful of times when I found my head popping above the surface of Patchett's novel to catch a quick lungful of realism is it really possible that among a group of 57 assorted men there wouldn't be one opera hater or homosexual? I was promptly sucked back under the surface by the book's bewitching undertow. This is a story of passionate, doomed love; of the glory of art; of the triumph of our shared humanity over the forces that divide us, and a couple of other unbearably cheesy themes, and yet Patchett makes it work, completely." Laura Miller, Salon.com
(click here to read the entire Salon.com review