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Bel Canto
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Ann Patchett
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett at Abbey's Bookshop,

Bel Canto

Ann Patchett


Harper Collins

Fiction & Literature;
Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)


336 pages

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Winner of the Orange Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

The poignant - and at times very funny - novel from the author of State of Wonder and Commonwealth.

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.

By:   Ann Patchett
Imprint:   Harper Collins
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 21mm
Weight:   250g
ISBN:   9781841155838
ISBN 10:   1841155837
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   July 2002
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Author Website:

Originally from Los Angeles, Ann Patchett has also written The Magician's Assistant and The Patron Saint of Liars. She lives in Nashville and is the Tennessee Williams Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of the South.

Winner of the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction, this is a literary novel that grips as firmly as any thriller. In Latin America a group of terrorists take over an international gathering, only to discover their intended target, the president, is at home watching a soap opera. With their plan in ruins General Alfredo assaults the Vice President and allows a sick hostage to die. But these are unusual terrorists, described by the Red Cross negotiator as unprofessional. They feel grief at the death and are as trapped as their hostages as the inevitable end draws near. The siege leads to the formation of surprising liaisons between captives and terrorists. Roxanne Coss, an American diva, meets her biggest fan, Japanese industrialist Mr Hosokawa, and the two fall in love. His translator, Gen, starts to teach one of the terrorists, the gentle and beautiful Carmen, and they begin a passionate relationship. This very disparate group are forced into constructing their own, new society and for all concerned the experience becomes one of personal discovery. It is in the everyday details of their lives that the book excels. With the deftest of touches Patchett brings her characters to such convincing life that the reader follows their actions with rapt attention. At the heart of the book is the belief in the inherent goodness of mankind; of the desire to be one's best self. This is represented by the beautiful singing - bel canto - of Roxanne, who entertains them throughout their captivity. When removed from their everyday lives people have the ability to respond to art and be transformed by it. Gen translates languages for captors and hostages but ultimately it is Roxanne who shows us how to let go of the literal meaning of words and rely on the truth of our emotions. (Kirkus UK)

  • Short-listed for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2003
  • Shortlisted for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2003.
  • Winner of Orange Prize 2002
  • Winner of Orange Prize 2002.
  • Winner of Orange Prize for Fiction 2002
  • Winner of Orange Prize for Fiction 2002.
  • Winner of PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction 2002.
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