Bel Canto: A Novel Study Guide

Bel Canto: A Novel by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto is a 2001 novel by Ann Patchett based on the hostages of the Lma Crisis. During the birthday party for Katsumi Hosokawa in the vice presidential home in an unspecified country, terrorists break in and take the guests hostage. Over the course of the novel, two romances develop: one between the singer Roxanne Cross and Hosokawa, the other between Gen Watanabe and the terrorist Carmen. The government eventually takes action, the terrorists are killed along with Hosokawa and Gen and Roxanne get married.

Set in an unspecified South American country, the story begins at a birthday party thrown at the country's vice presidential home in honor of Katsumi Hosokawa, the visiting chairman of a large Japanese company and opera enthusiast. As a not-so-subtle pretext to get Hosokawa to invest in the country, famous American soprano Roxane Coss is scheduled to perform as the highlight of the party.

Near the end of the party, members of a terrorist organization break into the house looking for the President. When it is discovered that the President did not attend the party, the terrorist group decides to take the entire party hostage. After determining they have too many hostages, the terrorists decide to release all of the hostages except those they deem most likely to return a large ransom.

Two major romantic relationships develop as the standoff drags on and serve as the backdrop to the rest of the story. The first is between Roxane and Hosokawa, who develop a deep bond even though they do not speak each other's language and thus cannot communicate verbally. The second relationship is between the translator Gen and the young terrorist Carmen, who must keep their love a secret. The two lovers meet in the china closet every night.

At the end of the novel, the government breaks into the house and kills all the terrorists. All of the hostages are freed except for Hosokawa, who dies in the struggle. The novel ends some time after the crisis as Gen and Roxane are wed in Italy.

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