Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

I have been telling those closest to me that Bel Canto is the most beautiful book I have read in years. Having just finished reading it, I know that I cannot even begin to describe what this book has done for me. I want to say that I have been moved, that Patchett’s storytelling is hypnotic in its intense expansiveness, that her narration feels as effortless as a second skin, but all of these terms, every phrase I think of is hackneyed and barbaric in comparison. So what to say?

On the surface, Bel Canto is the story of what happens on the inside when a party in South America full of international elites is taken hostage by a group of terrorists, but it is so much more. It is a philosophical work that explores and documents all kinds of human relations with a clear emphasis on love. It is an exhibition of third person omniscient that is so subtle it is easy to forget that writing is a fine art. It is a love letter to opera that is accessible to the uninitiated. It is a compelling plot that questions the intersection of loyalty and privilege.

 

Bottom line:

Bel Canto is one of those books that fills the reader’s life with people to care for. Patchett’s craftsmanship is on full display throughout the book, and there is so much to appreciate about her writing: character development; narration; some of the most excellent foreshadowing I have read; and the way she tackles history, art, spirituality, and philosophy. Perhaps most impressive (although it is hard for me to say) is Patchett’s argument for compassion, which I read in her willingness to carefully explain varying points of view and the ways in which she tenderly unfolds and transforms her characters.

 

Bottom bottom line:

I checked this book out from the library, but I will be buying it. With passages so beautiful they took my breath away, how could I not?

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