Monday, July 7, 2008

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

I'm at a loss for words. This is one of the most disappointing books I've read in a long time.

I've been sitting here for quite some time, writing and editing a detailed review. Only a few moments ago, I deleted everything I'd written and substituted it with these current sentences.

I'm frustrated because I can't seem to be productive with my writing tonight. I'm even more frustrated that I spent so much time reading this book only to be met with an atrocious final chapter and epilogue.

This novel contained some positive elements: some romantic scenes, an optimistic view of human nature, and some engaging characterizations. But it was also fantastical to the point of absurd, agonizingly boring for the first 100 or so pages, and filled with an overload of characters who are never sketched beyond surface features. I had a hard time envisioning the scenes, despite Patchett's abundant use of adjectives. I'm not sure why. I guess the story just never came to life for me.

I should briefly explain the plot. A group of terrorists takes a houseful of party-goers hostage. The party is held in an unnamed South American country, at the home of the nation's vice president. An internationally acclaimed opera singer is present to entertain the guests, and both the hostages and terrorists find themselves entranced by her voice and personage. The hostage situation, which is unlikely in many respects, carries on for over four months. During this time, relationships are formed and romances develop among a household of diverse people from across the globe. This unusual scenario, engaging at times, ultimately fell flat. And, as mentioned before, the novel's conclusion is horrific both for its content and its literary merit. Yet the book cover is branded with critical acclaim and awards. Hm.

Time for a new book.

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