View Poll Results: Bel Canto: Final Verdict

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  • * Waste of time. Wouldn't recommend.

    0 0%
  • ** Didn't like it much.

    0 0%
  • *** Average.

    0 0%
  • **** It is a good book.

    6 100.00%
  • ***** Liked it very much. Would strongly recommend it.

    0 0%
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Thread: April '12 / Orange Prize Winners Reading: Bel Canto

  1. #1
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    April '12 / Orange Prize Winners Reading: Bel Canto

    In April we will be reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

    Please post your thoughts and questions in this thread.
    ~
    No damn cat and no damn cradle.
    ~


  2. #2
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    I just checked and my library has it, so I'll try to pick it up and hopefully it will make decent weekend reading.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

  3. #3
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    One of the things I enjoy about this book is the very subtle touches of the strange which the author creates. It takes the mundane and transports it into a very surreal situation, as I am sure to those who suddenly found themselves taken hostage when they were simply attending a birthday party must have felt it to be a rather surreal event.

    I also think that the reactions of the various different individuals, and the glimpses we are given of their thoughts in this moment feel very human. And I enjoy the way in which the choices and actions of this group of strangers, have this sort of interconnection with each other to have brought this event about. In a way it makes me think of the butterfly affect. If one person had made a different choice than everything could have happened in a drastically different way. But all their lives and fate are interwoven together in unpredictable ways.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  4. #4
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    I think the whole story is rather absurd and, probably because of it, very endearing.

    Having finished reading, I don't want to ruin it for those who are still reading so I will wait a little longer before delving into further debate.

    I was very intrigued by the title. It is defined as:

    Bel canto singing means singing beautifully, flexibly and smoothly, delivering high and low notes in a similar style so that all the notes of a singer's range sound even from top to bottom.

    http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bel_canto

    Any thoughts on this?
    ~
    No damn cat and no damn cradle.
    ~


  5. #5
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    Bel canto singing means singing beautifully, flexibly and smoothly, delivering high and low notes in a similar style so that all the notes of a singer's range sound even from top to bottom.

    http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bel_canto

    Any thoughts on this?
    Though I haven't finished the book yet, I think that defintion does make for a very fitting and apt discription of the book itself.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    I don't know if I'll have time to get to Bel Canto this month with the school reading I have to do, but I'll try.

  7. #7
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Muse View Post
    One of the things I enjoy about this book is the very subtle touches of the strange which the author creates. It takes the mundane and transports it into a very surreal situation, as I am sure to those who suddenly found themselves taken hostage when they were simply attending a birthday party must have felt it to be a rather surreal event.

    I also think that the reactions of the various different individuals, and the glimpses we are given of their thoughts in this moment feel very human. And I enjoy the way in which the choices and actions of this group of strangers, have this sort of interconnection with each other to have brought this event about. In a way it makes me think of the butterfly affect. If one person had made a different choice than everything could have happened in a drastically different way. But all their lives and fate are interwoven together in unpredictable ways.
    I completely agree with this.

    Also, I have a much greater appreciation for the narrative style than when I read it back in 200(whatever it was). The narrator can be almost flippant at times and adds a very subtle element of humour - more than that inspired by incompetent terrorists.

    I go back and forth on the issue of p.o.v in this book. At first I was a bit put off by the random transition of perspectives, but the more I read the more I came around to the style and appreciated how seamless it was.

    one piece of criticism I can give to this book (without spoiling anything) is that I find Roxane's character to be inconsistent. Overall, character development is not this book's strong point, but Roxane in particular bothers me. I think I want to like her a lot, and the inconsistencies prevent this from happening.

    I think another shift for me from my first reading to this one is that I didn't have the passion for opera that I did now. While you do not have to be an opera aficionado by any means to enjoy the book, I think it helps to put you in the frame of mind of some of the characters, particularly Hosokawa.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

  8. #8
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    one piece of criticism I can give to this book (without spoiling anything) is that I find Roxane's character to be inconsistent. Overall, character development is not this book's strong point, but Roxane in particular bothers me. I think I want to like her a lot, and the inconsistencies prevent this from happening.

    I think another shift for me from my first reading to this one is that I didn't have the passion for opera that I did now. While you do not have to be an opera aficionado by any means to enjoy the book, I think it helps to put you in the frame of mind of some of the characters, particularly Hosokawa.
    At this point in the book I do not know if I can say I have truly noticed Roxanne to be inconsistent, but I can understand the struggle with her character as I do have similar feelings about her. While I do not dislike her, at the same time I cannot altogether make up mind as to what I think of her. While like you there is a part of me that wanted to, or thought I would like her a great deal I find my feelings for her up to this point to be a bit more neutral. Thus far I have to say that Gen is shaping up to be one of my favorite characters.

    I have only had the opportunity to attend the opera once, but I did rather enjoy the experience, but I do have a passion for art, particularly traditional/classical painting so I can understand how characters such as Hosokawa might feel about Roxanne and her signing.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    Well, since it looks like discussion is already beginning, maybe I'll try and squeeze it in.

  10. #10
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    It was a quick read for me, MM. I started reading it one night a week or so ago, and the next thing I knew, the sun was coming up and I was finished.
    Like a blind man with a gun
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  11. #11
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I kept thinking during the first couple of chapters, Man, I wish Messner would put on some sunscreen, or find a hat, or something.
    Like a blind man with a gun
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  12. #12
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Muse View Post
    Though I haven't finished the book yet, I think that defintion does make for a very fitting and apt discription of the book itself.
    Because of the variety of characters?

    Re. Roxanne... I also have mixed feelings towards her; however, she is one of the characters who has developed most in the book, I believe. Owing to her fame, talent and goodlooks, she had an easy life but I think she has managed to deal with it all very well and become a mature person (owing to her affair as well, maybe).

    Any thoughts on Messner?
    ~
    No damn cat and no damn cradle.
    ~


  13. #13
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    Because of the variety of characters?
    I was thinking more of the way in which through this event each of the characters seem to express high and low moments. Though they are in a very precarious situation of which will no doubt affect the rest of their lives, at the same time there are moments of goodness which are born out of this moment, and connections made between people which might never have been made. As well the characters seem to reevaluate themselves and their own priorities in sometimes positive ways.

    I am curious, what do you think the significance is of the fact that the "host country" as it is referred remains unnamed, while is it made a point of specifying the countries where various guests have come from, all we know about the country in which the event is taking place is that it is an insignificant country, presumably in Central or South America.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  14. #14
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Muse View Post
    I am curious, what do you think the significance is of the fact that the "host country" as it is referred remains unnamed, while is it made a point of specifying the countries where various guests have come from, all we know about the country in which the event is taking place is that it is an insignificant country, presumably in Central or South America.
    I think the author simply didn’t want the novel muddled with actual events. The setup is loosely based on the Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis in Lima in 1997. The Marxist terrorist group Tupac Amaru held a number of high-level officials hostage in the Japanese Embassy for 4 months. The crisis was resolved by then Peruvian President Fujimori (a Peruvian of Japanese ancestry), and I don’t want to say what happened in Peru because it’s real similar to what happens in the novel. Recall in the book how the terrorists were suspicious that Mr. Hosokawa was the president. I’m not sure if Pres. Fujimori watched Latino Soap Operas, though.

    A few years back, I read a relatively favorable article about Fujimori in Smithsonian Magazine. He was (and is still) popular with the people of the small villages in Peru. They had a nickname for him: El Chinito (Little Chinaman). I suppose if you’re scratching out a living in the high Andes, the finer distinctions between Japanese ancestry and Chinese ancestry don’t matter much. He’s in jail now.
    Like a blind man with a gun
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  15. #15
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Muse View Post
    I was thinking more of the way in which through this event each of the characters seem to express high and low moments. Though they are in a very precarious situation of which will no doubt affect the rest of their lives, at the same time there are moments of goodness which are born out of this moment, and connections made between people which might never have been made. As well the characters seem to reevaluate themselves and their own priorities in sometimes positive ways.
    I hear what you are saying and, to a certain degree, I agree with your take on it. However, I also think that we are offered this character rich group that manage to gel together very quickly to survive in an astonishingly harmonious way very quickly.

    At the outset they seem like a very unlikely group... Who would have thought that the Vice President would turn into Martha Stewart? Chess, music, sports, cookery, all areas covered.
    I am curious, what do you think the significance is of the fact that the "host country" as it is referred remains unnamed,
    I think Sancho makes a good point; the story told in the book has nothing to do with the politics so probably the author did not want it to get mixed up. Another possibility is that this is just another small, insignificant, under-developed country, which is likely to be forgotten (and neglected) by the rest of the world unless there is some kind of drama going on (how ironic that they themselves thrive on drama too). Hence, "host country" can be read "any small country" as well, maybe.
    ~
    No damn cat and no damn cradle.
    ~


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