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This week I read book 36 – Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

I picked up this book from a pile being sold for charity, and I was a little unsure whether I would enjoy it. It follows a group of people trapped in a house for months as the result of a failed attempt to kidnap the president of an unnamed country. We get to know both the hostages, and the terrorists.

I did enjoy it, happily. It explored the nature of love, of acceptance, of understanding, and it approached human frailty and respect in a way that was very effective.

Early on, the outcome for the terrorists is explicitly stated, and yet due to the burgeoning relationships – the sensitivity of humans to one another – you want the outcome to be different. You hope for more for them all.

The way the story wove around people from both sides of the divide was very even-handed – there were terrorists, but not villains; there were the hostages, but they weren’t treated like victims. In fact, by the end of the story it is the neutral observer who seems culpable for the less-than-happy ending: he could have changed things.

This book was nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2002, and I can see why. It is totally accessible – there are no pompous moments or verbose segments – but it makes you think about what lays underneath the writing. You are forced to question morality, and whether ends really do justify means.

The story creates an Eden for some, a Hell for others – and it is this contrast that makes you want the best outcome for everyone.

It’s a book I’d recommend and I am sure I’ll read it again in the not too distant future!

Happy reading,
EJ
🙂

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