Sunday, 19 April 2009

My Thoughts: Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett

This is the second book I have read for my own Exploration: Latin American Reading Challenge - 2 more to go and the challenge ends this month. I really had planned to read a lot more as this is my own challenge but what with all the other reading challenges, bookrings and library deadlines time has run away with me - I've already decided next year I'm cutting down to a max of 5 challenges at anyobe time so I can tackle my 400 book + tbr pile.

Anyway back to Bel Canto. This has been sitting on my tbr pile for over a year now, it was one of those books I had heard was great but the plot didn't give me much hope as I don't tend to like books set in a too modern world and thought the kidnapping plot would make it into a thriller.
Luckily for me this wasn't the case. The book is set in an unnamed poor Latin American country, a country with very few rich people who rule the place and a rebellious and unhappy poor population who resort to political threats to try and improve their lives.
The kidnappers storm a birthday party full of internationals who they hope will invest in their country, but who in fact have no intention of doing anything but enjoying the free food and most importantly seeing the famous opera star Roxanne Cross.
The kidnappers arrive looking to kidnap the President, who infact stayed home to watch his favourite soap. Instead the hold a whole host of middle aged men and their wives, many of whom can't even speak to each other because they have come from all across the world. The hostages remove all the women execpt one, the seige then lasts for months.
Mr Howsaka and his translator become the two central characters in the novel. Mr Howsaka, the birthday boy, is fascinated with the opera singer. Though they cannot talk without the aid of the translator they sit with each other all day, they communicate through looks and touch, without a shared langauge they fall in love.
The translator is much needed, he has to translate for everyone and ends up teaching some of the hostages new languages. But it is not only the hostages that want to learn a young terrorist also demands his attention.
Two unlikely love affairs slowly grow and develop, each grips you as you read and wonder about the possible futures of two such unlikely matches.


Scrap girl said...

This sounds interesting. I have never heard of this one. Your reading pile sounds as bad as mine. My biggest problem is people keep lending me books and I am too polite to turn them down in case they are fab.

katrina said...

Mine is also due to the fact i can't say no - at bookcrossing meetings i generally take ang go home with the biggest pile

Richard said...

I realize this book has its admirers, Katrina, but is there really anything "Latin American" about it other than its setting? I'm not critiquing your choice so much as wondering why you chose this particular book for this particular challenge. Would be interested to hear your thoughts!

katrina said...

I chose this book just because it was on my shelf and it said it was set in Latin America. As I didn't know anything about it other than that people had enjoyed it I gave it a read. I do agree that it isn't typical at all of Latin American reads and I wouldn't put it with that genre of fiction in the future.
One of those, you don't know till you try scenarios

Richard said...

Thanks for the response, Katrina. I have to confess that I was more curious about the novel's point of view than I might be otherwise because a few of the negative reviews I've seen of the work basically savage the author for not knowing anything about Latin America. Those who love the book, on the other hand, don't address that point at all. Anyway, cheers!

J at said...

I was like you on this book...had it sitting there for quite awhile, thought the premise sounded somewhat boring, but I was drawn in by all of the good reviews. Glad I was, because I loved it. :)