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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, 2001 * * * * *

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's Vice President, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mermerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. Their quarry is the President of Peru, who has unfortunately stayed hme to watch a favorite soap oepra, and from the beginning things go awry. Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds. The book is loosely based on the real life Japanese "embassy hostage crisis" which began on December 17, 1996 in Lima, Peru when members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took hostage hundreds of diplomats, military officials and business executives who were attending a aparty at the official residence of Japan's ambassor to Peru. Ann Patchett weaves an amazing story about the hearts and psyches of hostage and terrorist alike, and in doing so reveals a profound, shared humnaity. Compassion and time stand still while priorities rearrange themselves although, ultimately, , something has to give. In a fractious world, Bel Canto remains a gentle reminder of the transcendence of beauty and love. An amazing read.

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