Top positive review
"She sang as if she was saving the life of every person in the room."
Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2017
'Bel Canto', the title of this novel, means 'beautiful singing' and this book truly sings. It is a lovely story packed with magical realism and focuses on a botched kidnapping in a third world country. The kidnappers are amateur guerrillas who had hoped to capture the president of the nation as a prisoner, only to find that he was not present at the party they crashed by coming out of the air vents. The party was a birthday celebration for a renown Japanese businessman named Katsumi Hosokawa, and present was the vice president of the country, only a figurehead, and an internationally famous soprano named Roxanne Coss. What starts off as a horrific situation of prisoners versus captors turns into something entirely different.
Roxanne has the voice of an angel, one that turns men and women's hearts and souls toward her. She is beloved by many. "Even those who saw her for the first time, before she had opened her mouth to sing, found her radiant." She had been brought to what she calls "this dismal jungle" to sing for Mr. Hosakawa in celebration of his 53rd birthday. Mr. Hosakawa has loved opera since his youth and is in awe of Roxanne. Her singing brings forth emotions from inside him that he was never aware he even had. A new world opens up for him.
The guerrillas release all the women except Roxanne, while the men remain prisoners. The captors are a bunch of amateurs, mostly young, but all holding rifles. As the captives and captors begin to interact during the hostage situation, the real beauty of this novel comes into play. People befriend one another, others fall in love,a routine develops and music fills the atmosphere. Captors and captives alike are sympathetic characters and I was only fearful of the tragedy that I felt would ensue at some point. How, I thought, could this end well?
The country where this situation occurs is never named in the novel but it is reminiscent of the Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis that occurred in Lima, Peru in 1996. This book has been adapted into an opera and the movie rights were recently sold and the stars will be Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe.
If you love literary fiction with eccentric and well-developed characters, this is a must-read. If you love music, you are in for a treat that will knock you socks off.