Bel Canto

Ann Patchett


Why Bel Canto and Clingman’s Dome

I loved this novel when I first read it. It is a haunting story that has stayed with me for a long time and made me think a lot about how we interact with other people. It’s a novel that I have thought about numerous times for years after I read it. I knew that I wanted to have this novel as one of my selections and I decided to pair it with Tennessee because Ann Patchett lives in Tennessee.

More About Bel Canto

Bel Canto is the fourth novel by American author Ann Patchett, published in 2001 by Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. It was awarded both the Orange Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. It was placed on several top book lists, including Amazon’s Best Books of the Year (2001). It was also adapted into an opera in 2015.

Based on the Japanese embassy hostage crisis (also called the Lima Crisis) of 1996–1997 in Lima, Peru, the novel follows the relationships among a group of young terrorists and their hostages, who are mostly high-profile executives and politicians, over several months. Many of the characters form unbreakable bonds of friendship, while some fall in love.

Opera is a centralizing theme on many levels throughout the story; the operatic term bel canto literally means “beautiful singing.”

Bel Canto balances themes of love and crisis as disparate characters learn that music is their only common language. As in Patchett’s other novels, including Truth & Beauty and The Magician’s Assistant, the author’s lyrical prose and lucid imagination make Bel Canto a captivating story of strength and frailty, love and imprisonment, and an inspiring tale of transcendent romance.