Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Bel Canto

Posted by nliakos on September 3, 2007

by Ann Patchett (audio version narrated by Anna Fields)

This is one of my favorite books, one which I have read numerous times, included several times with ESL classes. Students usually like it too, although some of the more straight-laced ones are offended by the sexual behavior described in the novel, in particular the adulterous relationship. I just love it, though. I love the way Patchett uses language, the way she describes each scene and the way she leads us into the strange world of the hostages and their captors, allowing just a touch of magic to render the events almost (but not completely) believable. I love the characters: calm, quiet Mr. Hosokawa and his geeky translator, Gen Watanabe; the diva Roxana Coss; Carmen, who can make herself invisible; Cesar and Ishmael, the terrorists who discovered in themselves the capacity to dream of normal lives; Simon, the French diplomat whose love for his wife is his only reality; Father Arguedas, the simple priest whose love of opera is surpassed only by his desire to be helpful; and Ruben Iglesias, Vice President of “the host country”, who discovers a predilection for housework during the long months of captivity. Patchett develops her characters with loving care as the novel progresses toward the climax she has warned us about in Chapter One, but which we cannot bear to contemplate as we are drawn deeper and deeper into their lives.

Anna Fields does a good job of narrating the book, but I wish she had worked a little harder to pronounce some of the Spanish words and names correctly. Interestingly, everybody has an accent (although they are all supposed to be speaking in their native languages as Gen interprets) except for the American (okay, that’s expected) and the Japanese (huh?), even though Fields is very capable of producing a creditable Japanese accent (see next post).

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