I just finished reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. What a thoroughly enjoyable book. I’m a sucker for writing that pays attention to details, specifically details of material objects and the way we experience things; Bel Canto thoroughly satisfied that desire.
Patchett’s story starts with an extravagant party centered around a renowned opera singer and foreign dignitaries and businessmen. Terrorists crash the party and take the party guests hostage. Patchett uses the scenario to play out improbable connections and affections within the party guests, terrorists, and between the parties that began in opposition.
I experienced Bel Canto as a narrative of compassion — the characters and their boundaries soften as the plot unfolds, as time and identity pass away and the individual is allowed to step forward. Patchett moves flawlessly between characters’ voices — literally translating over languages, and using her opera singer’s voice as a unifying thread for all the characters. Bel Canto gives the reader an opportunity to consider what kinds of love might surface if we were lucky enough to be forced out of our comfort zones and confront ourselves and others as people joined by a desire to experience beauty, pleasure, comfort, and love.