The novel Bel Canto by Ann Patchett delves into the somewhat dystopian breakdown of society's expectatons when one is thrust into an unconventional lifestyle and isolated from the rest of the world.
The novel begins with a simple dinner party hosted by a President in an unknown South American country. What the President hopes to achieve is a partnership between his nation and Nansei Industries, a company owned by key character Mr. Hosokawa, through throwing a birthday party for the distinguished guest. To further bribe Mr. Hosokawa the President invites revered opera soprano Roxanne Coss to perform. However, on the night of the lavish event, the Vice President Ruben is given the task of entertaining the President's guests, as the President resigns himself to a night with his favourite "tele novella" or soap opera. The party runs remarkably smooth until the terrorist group "La familia de Martin Suarez" promptly arrives and takes the entire party hostage.
The omniscient perspective through which the story is told allows the reader to gain insight into each character, prompting a deeper connection to the hostages and even evoking pathos for some of the terrorists as the narrative continues. Through the paradoxical relationships that form between the hostages and the terrorists, Patchett satirizes the boundaries between right and wrong, emphasizing the fragility of that line.
Another striking feature of this novel is its musicality, which progresses throughout the narrative. The author's use of refrain and robust diction mirrors that of an opera's score, further heightening the unconventional narrative.
The events of Bel Canto both surprise and delight, the myriad of emotions evoked are truly reflective of opera, a genre of music long since forgotten and now re-captured in Ann Patchett's prose.
Review by: Lara Boleslawsky