Bel Canto, or “Beautifully Sung” is a wonderfully orchestrated book about a group of hostages and their captors holed up in a presidential mansion for several months. While the first chapters of the book are tense and stressful, as time passes both the prisoners and the terrorists adjust to the restricted world created by their situation. Clothes are washed and meals prepared while written demands are exchanged and the Red Cross representative makes his daily visit. The lives of major characters including an American opera singer, Japanese business man and his translator, a beautiful female terrorist and the French ambassador are changed forever by the bonds they forge during the ordeal.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
A well crafted book in which the reader is also lulled into a sense of complacency along with the hostages -despite Patchett’s warning in the opening chapter. The weight of time was especially well portrayed as the heads of international corporations and the active, highly trained terrorists are all struggle with the unaccustomed lack of activity and discover their hidden gifts. This is a book to be savored, as the plot details the small adjustments and changes that occur during the captivity. We enjoyed the detailed descriptions, for instance the way the guests sink to the carpet in a rustle of satin and taffeta -the way some women straighten their gowns beneath them, while others -those who expected to be shot, lie down uncaring. The barriers of language and the universal appeal of music were also nicely captured. The book seems to be based on a hostage taking in Peru in the late 1990s.