What I Read: Bel Canto

4.5/5 pineapples

This post could easily be titled "the book that made me love reading again" or "how I got over 'Reader's Block.'" I've had a terrible time getting myself to read this summer. After suffering through The Good Lord Bird, I had a distaste for novels.

Or, I thought it was just novels. But Men Explain Things to Me didn't sit well either. Or a play. Or blogs. I barely got myself to read magazines.

But then I picked up Bel Canto, put all of my faith into it, and was completely rewarded.


Bel Canto is a novel about humanity and our inherent connections to each other. Only these things are told through a hostage situation in a small South American country. Yes, there's a love story and yes, the story moves a bit slow in the beginning. But it has to, because before I knew it the plot was tumbling and building on itself, until I realized that the characters had entered a dangerous territory they were trapped in. The slow pace meant I couldn't see it happening.

This is a book that deserves its slow pace. It demands patience, for that it what it's all about. Friendships between enemies don't happen immediately, but out of circumstances that require it. Opera is a huge theme in this book, and while I know very little about it, it's the best way to describe what happens. Every character sings a song in a language no one understands verbally yet everyone can feel internally. And when things go wrong at the climax, we don't need any words to feel the pain of the loss each and every character endures.

Ann Patchett is a master of introducing a whole cast of characters without ever letting them get confusing or lost. They all have a purpose, and I found myself caring about each and every one, not an easy feat. I wanted to watch each one make mistakes, let their guard down, because that is where the music comes from.

I forgive Bel Canto for its flaws, of which the ending is the biggest one. It's not what happened that bugged me, but how it happened. I wish Ann Patchett was more careful, crafting a finale in beautiful language like a song (necessary for a novel about opera). The rest of the book takes it time, time it needs, but then the end rushes to a conclusion we already know. If she had taken a moment to show us the scene, slowed things down, I feel as if it would have been emotionally more impactful.

And let's ignore the epilogue, shall we? It told me things I didn't want to know and didn't tell me things I did. I prefer to think it's not a part of this otherwise excellent book.

So yes, this book loses half a pineapple for the ending, for I felt a little let down after all the emotions leading to that moment. But don't let that tiny half pineapple deter you- I fell back in love with reading (and writing) after this book. This is the kind of art I live to put time into. You should too.

So I'm back, but done making promises. We'll see where my blogging takes me, even if that's nowhere. I'm just thankful for the few of you out there who read my posts no matter how far apart they are. For you, I shall always keep on writing.