The first meeting of the South Thomaston Library Book discussion group was quite a success. Six people met and had a lively discussion of Bel Patchett's Bel Canto. Several confessed that they did not like the book, and others loved it.
Roxann Coss, a famous American opera singer is giving a concert in honor of Mr. Hosokawa in the home of the vice-president of an unnamed South American country. In attendance are people from around the world who have come ostensibly to wish Mr. Hosokawa a happy birthday, but really are there to court his business. He has come only to hear his idol sing. The guests speak a variety of languages - English, Japanese, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Russian, who knows what else. Mr. Hosokawa has had the foresight to bring along his brilliant translator, Gen Watanabe who can speak almost every language in the room.
A group of terrorists invades the party, sends all the women home - with the exception of Roxann - and settles in for a long period of 'negotiation' to meet their demands. They don't seem to have formulated their demands very well. In fact, they are a disorganized bunch consisting of three apparently has-been generals, and a rag-tag group of very young, eager but inexperienced rebels. As the siege drags on for months, the real story unfolds. The hostages become friends with the terrorists; the terrorists become comfortable with their "guests" and feel no compunction to end the stand -off, especially since they are in a gorgeous house with good plumbing, the government sends in good food, they have TV, and they have Roxann to sing opera for them everyday. In additon, two of the guards are revealed to be women, and this adds even more human interest to the story.
We all had differing reactions to this story, and we all agreed that it would have been a better book if the author had omitted the epilogue where she tries to wrap all the pieces up neatly. Some thought it was a dull, dreary story about imprisonment, deprivation, and depression. Others found it to be an uplifting story of human beings making the best of what they've been given. We discussed the scientific study one of us had seen someplace about hostages bonding with their captors. In this story, it is easy to see how it could happen. We all agreed we didn't like the ending, but didn't see any other options. I won't spoil the story by giving it away.
If you're reading this book, or have read it in the past, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Just leave us a comment here.