Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bel Canto

I spent the first half of this book feeling it to be slight, waiting for something to happen. After that I found I was enjoying it, but unsure why and at last I really had to know the outcome. As the characters slowly took shape I began to care what happened to them. I knew I would be disappointed in the book if it let the hostage takers off the hook but was searching for a way they could escape.
I enjoyed the image of the Deputy Prime Minister taking to housework as a sort of displacement activity, and there was the tension Val noted with Mr Hosokawa’s nocturnal trips to the singer’s bedroom and the translator’s lust for Carmen which were palpable.
But what was all that about the opera singer? I can appreciate a good voice, but every day….singing scales…..for HOURS. Did I miss the point here? Most of those hostages probably wanted to shoot her themselves by the end!
If the epilogue provided a necessary end to the author’s game plan, I am afraid that I missed that also, unless the translator married the singer as a locum for his employer. The natural ending for me was the release of the hostages.
The device of placing all the characters in a confined space and observing their personalities and behaviours has been used frequently, I am sure that we can all think of examples. Overall I enjoyed the book but the question for me is, has Ann Patchett managed to make it sufficiently powerful an example, or not? I think not quite.