Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bel Canto

Book Review

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

I have known about this book for some time now. For some long time.

But I held off getting it.

I had already heard that it was good. Probably a literary prize winner.

I had to bide my time. The time had to be right. I didn't want to use up all the good books in the world too quickly.

Okay, okay. So that's not very likely, but I think you get the idea.

Several not so great books in a row left me disappointed. And ready for something good.

I already knew that I liked this author, based on my experience reading State of Wonder.

And this copy is in large print. Perfect for the treadmill. A good book will keep me on the treadmill longer than a poor book.

Now was the time. Time for something others thought was good.

The question was, would I think this was good?

I was about to find out.

Bel Canto

This is a fictional story about many high-powered businessmen and politicians who come together for a birthday party, at which a world-renown soprano is providing the evening's entertainment. Instead of the entertainment wrapping up and the party-goers dispersing, they are held hostage by a group of armed outlaws.

What ensues over the next several hundred pages is a testament to great writing. Great writing.

This is not usually a style of writing that I adore.

This writing is not laden with lots of dialogue, but what dialogue there is perfectly balanced and well chosen.

More than anything, this book exudes an aura of feeling. You feel for the hostages. You feel what they feel. You feel what they feel for the other hostages. You feel what they feel for their captors.

Part of why this is possible is the pacing of the book. I guess I have to call the pacing slow, but not in any negative way. It is slow in the sense of moving slowly to absorb some of that aura of feeling. Like moving through thick fog. You can't see what is ahead of you and you can't stop and you are straining to absorb everything you are able to discern. Yet the pacing is just right. Just the right amount of time to absorb everything.

This is a story about what happens to people. Yes, fictional people, but people nonetheless. This is not a book about the incredible actions involved in taking hostages.

And yet, throughout the entire book, the plot evolves around bel canto. Beautiful singing. This book made me want to fall in love with opera. I don't know opera. But I don't need another insatiable love. I already have sunsets and Shakespeare and beaches and The South Ledges, Appledore.

But that doesn't mean I might not love opera too. I'm just not ready to find out right now.

Oh, and as for the treadmill... well, this book kept me on the treadmill longer than a mediocre book would have. A lot longer. But then I had a new problem.

I wanted to keep reading long after my legs were ready to give out. I had to keep reading. I ended reading this book even more, while sitting. Sitting and reading. I don't need large print for that. Ha! Not yet!

If you are ready for a nice, leisurely stroll through the minds of people held captive, this is your book. Even more so, if you are looking for something you can dive into and wrap around you while sipping a favorite coffee or tea.

Stop. Sit. Breathe.


This is your book.

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