Book Review: Bel Canto

Patchett, Ann.  (2001).  Bel Canto.  NY: Perennial.

I am tempted to throw this book out.  It reeks of romantic sentimentality and I do not know how much more I can stand.  A dinner party is seized by revolutionaries looking for the President of ? – I say ? because Patchett does not identify a specific country where it occurs.  This is part of the romanticism.  Why name a country where negative images of it can be conjured up in its place?  I feel, however, that Patchett is writing a love letter to South America and its people.

The people are strict Catholics and Patchett paints it is a mystifying yet beautiful religion, resplendent in traditions.  The people are also beautiful.  The terrorists are revolutionaries concerned more with social justice than with breaking shit.  The young revolutionaries are exposed to opera before the operation and they remain entranced by opera during the siege.  The French, those dirty French, couple are on the rocks and suddenly fall back in love once they arrive in the country.

Patchett even shows her disdain for the overly rational cynics of the continent with her language choice. “Ruben Iglesias shrugged to indicate that he was philosophical about it all…” (40).  ‘It’ refers to being pistol whipped and why use ‘philosophical’ when ‘apathetic’ suffices?  I contend it is because Patchett is trying to tell a love story.  A love so beautiful that it can blossom under a horrible stress (hostage taken) and one so emotional that rational impulses have to be expunged, even from the book’s vocabulary.

I am only at the moment on page 40, so my insights will be refined.

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