September 26, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Bel Canto

By |2018-03-21T18:27:30+01:00September 1st, 2005|Recent Reviews|

By Ann Patchett

Perennial, 2001. 318 pages.


t’s an odd conceit, mixing opera worship with terrorism. Opera here is its own delicious tyranny, affecting and contagious.

Patchett swims in deft metaphor from the start: Gunmen seize the residence of a South American vice president and hold a major opera star (among others) hostage — the cast is UN in scope. What follows is pro-global under a dark star. Patchett’s messily occupied embassy harbors fear, yearning, coming-of-age, kisses, and arias.

It’s an unusual and beautifully written setup, though four and a half months and 300 pages can sag under the weight of even the most delicious contrivance.

About the Author:

The Book Staff represents a series of authors who review books for the magazine on a regular basis.