?Have You Heard??Audiobooks for Your Listening Pleasure?Bel Canto Written by Ann Patchett and Narrated by Anna Fields?

Posted October 17, 2018 by RobbieLea in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on May 28, 2001
Genres: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Audiobook
ISBN: 0060188731
ASIN: B0006IU4J8

In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.

Among the hostages are Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Swiss Red Cross negotiator Joachim Messner comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands. Days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months. Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds. Time stands still, priorities rearrange themselves. Ultimately, of course, something has to give.

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Am I the only person who feels a bit uneasy when a critically acclaimed book doesn’t quite strike a chord with me? I know I’m intelligent and I’m well-read in a variety of genres, but, for some reason, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett was hard to get through. In fact, if I hadn’t been listening to the audio version, I probably would not have gotten through it. For years, it was a matter of pride for me to muddle through every book I started regardless of whether it was good, bad, or ugly. I’m grown-up enough now to give myself permission to lay a book aside if it puts me off instead of taking me in. One of the advantages of audio books is you only have to press the “play” button to get into the story. Generally speaking, even a bad book will hold my attention as I listen to someone else read. Bel Canto certainly has its moments and the storyline is compelling. There is terrorism — a theme that is very popular in today’s writing. It is serendipitous that the book was published in May of 2001, a few months before the events of 9-11 that made us all hyper-sensitive to terrorist attacks. There is violence and brutality, tenderness and forgiveness, love and hope. People who are poles apart in lifestyle and ideology find romance inspite of the danger and strong-arm tactics of their captors. An award winner and bestseller, the book is impeccably written in the lyrical style the author is known for. Are you now asking yourself what my problem is with Bel Canto? The truth is . . . it’s difficult to pinpoint. From my perspective, the author tried too hard to make readers like all the characters even though some of them are despicable. I also found the pacing very slow at times and there is an air of unreality that seems more appropriate to fantasy.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I often find interesting or even startling information when I research authors and narrators for my reviews. Needless to say, I was sad and shocked to learn that Kate Fleming (Anna Fields), whose melodic voice and interpretation of the characters took Ann Patchett’s words to a new level, died in a tragic accident in 2006. The audio world has lost an incomparable voice.

There is no question that Ann Patchett is one of the most gifted writers of our time. I think most listeners will find Bel Canto’s storyline intriguing, so once more I find myself recommending a book that was not a favorite of mine with one caveat: I am recommending the audio version as opposed to the written word because Anna Fields is such a joy to hear. She’ll get you through it!


About Ann Patchett

Patchett was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray.

She moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was six, where she continues to live. Patchett said she loves her home in Nashville with her doctor husband and dog. If asked if she could go any place, that place would always be home. “Home is …the stable window that opens out into the imagination.”

Patchett attended high school at St. Bernard Academy, a private, non-parochial Catholic school for girls run by the Sisters of Mercy. Following graduation, she attended Sarah Lawrence College and took fiction writing classes with Allan Gurganus, Russell Banks, and Grace Paley. She later attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she met longtime friend Elizabeth McCracken. It was also there that she wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars.

In 2010, when she found that her hometown of Nashville no longer had a good book store, she co-founded Parnassus Books with Karen Hayes; the store opened in November 2011. In 2012, Patchett was on the Time 100 list of most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.

Rating Report
Overall: four-stars

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