Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Holley’s Review #3 of 12
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
PEN/Faulkner Award
National Book Critics Circle Award
Southeastern Booksellers Association Award – Fiction

I have flirted with this book for years. I’ve watched its popularity wax and wane and said to myself at every turn, “I need to read that.” Well, now I have and I really don’t know what to say. I did not enjoy it and to finish it I had to absolutely gut it out like a Navy SEAL recruit. The way people raved about the beauty of the language I was just sure I would love it so imagine my disappointment with the tedious book I found it to be. There were beautiful passages, images, turns of phrase, descriptions of characters…it was all there, but this book just did not resonate with me.

One friend pointed out that it was a tedious situation for the hostages and I was just picking up on that but somehow I don’t think that was it. I’ve never had an ear for opera so perhaps that is some of it as well. The thoughts of people losing focus, forgetting allegiances and disregarding their own safety (not to mention a months-long hostage standoff complete with food, music and soccer) to hear someone sing surpassed my abilities at suspension of disbelief. I won’t spoil the ending for you here but to me it seemed slapdash and thrown together. Like the tediousness of the hostage situation, perhaps it was a literary device to parallel the same sudden brutality in the hostages’ rescue but, again, I doubt it.

I understand the theme of music being used to bring together people of different backgrounds and ethnicities. I understand falling in love with the wrong person at the wrong time. I’ve read and liked other hostage/terrorist novels. I did not like this particular book. All this being said, I think Patchett’s writing is beautiful even if I did not like the book and I look forward to finally picking up my ARC of her newest, Run.

Happy Reading!