Friday, February 29, 2008

Bel Canto

I'm trying with Ann Patchett's novel, Bel Canto, I really am. I want to like it. I've heard great things about it from other people. And I'm keen to be a girly swot and get it read by Monday for my bookclub.

But I'm really struggling here.

I just find it so boring. The plot centres around a group who have been taken hostage in a mansion in an unnamed poor South American country. The group includes a famous opera singer, a wealthy Japanese CEO and his translator, and the Vice President of the country in which the events take place. These are possible the world's nicest and least competent terrorists. They have barely hurt anyone and seem utterly confused about why they are actually there. So the siege turns into a weeks-long ordeal where not much happens (at least so far). There is much description of the boredom experienced by the captives which I can totally relate to, feeling much the same myself whenever I pick up this book.

Then there is the impending romance between some of the captives, which I really don't find convincing. It's a hostage drama and... a love story? It's like Mills and Boon does An Evil Cradling.

There is no doubt that Patchett can write well. Her characterisations are interesting and initially the premise seemed promising. I'm only half-way through so maybe it will pick up. It could be me. Maybe I haven't given the book my full attention. Maybe it's my mood or the weather or something and maybe I'm being terribly unfair to Bel Canto. Perhaps I've missed the point.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of others on this one. Can I hold out hope for the second half? Have I totally missed the point? Is Bel Canto, in fact, an inspirational masterpiece? Please, I'm ready and willing to be convinced!

10 comments:

Marg said...

I'm afraid that I won't be able to convince you all that well. I thought it was completely ponderous and slow and despite the good reviews around the place not a book that I would recommend to many other readers!

Stephanie said...

I haven't read it but my neighbor did and she said the second part of the book really moves. Sorry I can't be of more help!

jess said...

Marg, it's nice to know I'm not alone!

Stephanie, I'm holding out some hope for the last part of the book. Hopefully things pick up a bit.

Melanie said...

I agree with Marg. Just a so-so book, I'm not sure why it's on the classic 'book club read' list.

Jeane said...

It got so many good reviews I've twice picked it up but not been able to get through even the first chapter. I thought I was missing something; maybe I'm not!

kimbofo said...

This is definitely a book you either love or hate. I'm afraid I fell into the latter camp.

kimbofo said...

Sorry... forgot to say you can find my review here:
http://kimbofo.typepad.com/readingmatters/2002/06/bel_canto_by_an.html

jess said...

Well I certainly haven't been overwhelmed by comments from people who loved this book!

I just finished Bel Canto this morning and have to agree with everything in your review, Kim. The epilogue was the final nail in the coffin for me. Totally inexplicable and unbelievable.

Can't wait to hear what people think of it in my bookclub tomorrow.

roxanestoner said...

This book is getting the prize for my most disliked book ever. The plot was poor, weak. I think that it had the potential to be a good one with a good set of characters and a good setting and good writing. Helas, the author repeated herself in the description of the character's feelings over and over again. It was dragging on and on. I was thinking that the author was attacking my intelligence by having to explain so many times to me what was happening to those people and I was wondering how many times I would have to read all over again what was said in the previous chapters. It was like listening to a likey faucet, Very irritating. The ending is sooo unbelievable and unprobable. I can't believe that I actually finished it. I think I wanted to know if it was going to be that bad all the way, I guess. You know what....IT WAS!

Sheila said...

I have to say I disagree with almost everyone here. I loved Bel Canto. The first half of the book is much different than the second half if that you are getting to understand the beautiful characters. The relationships that are created during the time spent in the house let me see how the most unlikely relationships can be formed. The love that Gen has for Carmen and vice versa is heart wrenching, and really just makes the reader want to feel the same way about someone. Don't give up in Bel Canto, you will not be disappointed!