Bel Canto

Ann Patchett

Latin terrorists storm an international gathering hosted by an underprivileged country to promote foreign interest and trade, only to find that their intended target, the President, has stayed home to watch his favourite soap opera on TV. Among the hostages are a world-class opera singer and her biggest fan, a Japanese tycoon who has been persuaded to attend the party on the understanding that she will perform half a dozen arias after dinner.

The tycoon’s engaging and sympathetic translator plays a vital role in the subsequent relationships between so many different nationalities closeted together, interpreting not only the terrorists’ negotiations but also the language of love between lovers who cannot understand what the other is saying.

Ultimately, it is the terrorist strike that does more to promote foreign relations than anyone could have hoped to achieve with the party.

Reviews of Bel Canto

  • ‘A beguiling mix of thriller, romantic comedy, and novel of ideas…Crisply written, immaculately plotted, and often very funny, it is that rarity – a literary novel you simply can’t put down.’ The Times

    ‘Like the blueprint of operatic performance that she has imported, Patchett slides from strutting camp to high tragedy, minute social comedy to sublime romanticism.’ Alex Clark, The Guardian

    ‘Expect miracles when you read Ann Patchett’s fiction. Comparisons are tempting to the unabashed romanticism of Laurie Colwin, the eccentric characters of Anne Tyler, the enchantments of Alice Hoffman. But Patchett is unique; a generous, fearless and startlingly wise young writer.’
    New York Times Review of Books

    ‘A fantastically gripping novel of romance under unexpected conditions.’ Cosmopolitan