Thursday, August 02, 2012

Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore

I don't remember how Bel Canto came to my attention, but I'm incredibly glad it made its way onto my reading list. Like the opera masterpieces that frame the characters and the storyline, the book is an exquisite work of art, beautifully and skillfully written.

The tale unfolds at a dinner party with an array of important individuals: a famous opera singer, politicians, priests, ambassadors, businessmen from all over the world ... and the terrorist generals and child soldiers that intrude and hold them all hostage.

Amid the chaos and power struggles, Patchett's narration floats like an aria from person to person, past to future. The book is a fascinating and lyrical portrait of human behavior in all its uncomplicated intricacies. Friendships, romantic relationships, and transactional alliances are all played out on a grand scale. (In real life, the reader knows these scenarios are highly unlikely. But this is an opera. It's comedy, tragedy, love, hate, and pathos blended into one.)

Though the ending was hinted at throughout the book, the epilogue seemed completely out of place. The role of nostalgia in survival is important, but the last few pages only make sense on a metaphorical level rather than a tangible human one.

Still, Bel Canto was categorically, utterly amazing.