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Alexandra

July Book of the Month: Bel Canto

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I've bought it, but haven't begun it yet. There were a few people who had -- and some lovely comments on the What are you reading? thread. Please continue the discussion here.

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A totally engaging book!

I was glad that it received much love, warm fuzzies, etc. since it's timing could have been disastrous -- it's about a group of terrorists that takes hostage a lavish party for a Japanese businessman featuring an American opera singer as its guest. These terrorists, though, are more hapless than violent and murderous, and the story of how they end up captive, and captivated, with one another is just delightful. The ending totally caught me off guard -- don't you hate when you can spot the ending too soon?! -- and basically took my breath away.

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(This discusses the story of the book so don't read if you want to be surprised.)

What a lovely book. I kept thinking the word "lovely" as I read it, and wondered how I could use such a term when reading about hostages/terrorism. But that's the tone of the book.....the evolution of emotions, the transformation of both hostages and terrorists, the unwitting creation of a world happier than the world from which they were wrenched. Of course the situation was doomed, and the only question was in what form the doom would appear. I could not help but compare the affect the music had on the listeners to the affect some ballets have on me: the disbelief that something can be so beautiful and pure, a desire to dance as well as those whom I watch, the feeling that lights have been turned on and I'm being dazzled; such was the affect both Roxane and Kato had on their audience.

Knowing that the situation had no possible happy ending I was anxious to see how the book ended; but with each new chapter and new character development I found myself happily involved in what was going on in the house rather than seeing it end, as it must.

OK, what do you think really happened to Carmen?

Giannina

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Giannina, you have said so beautifully everything I thought and felt about this book. I can't possibly add anything to your eloquence.

However, I am puzzled by this question:

OK, what do you think really happened to Carmen?

I thought it was quite straightforward??? In the final paragraphs of the story, her fate is both stated and described. Do we have reason to disbelieve what is said? However, I did have to read and reread a few times before I understood what happened to Mr. Hosukawa.

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Treefrog, I'm still not sure. Mr. Hosokawa stepped in front of Carmen in the kitchen when the shot was fired. I thought the shot hit both of them. But in the "epilogue" it states that the body of only one woman was found, presumedly Beatriz. Then if you go back and re-read about the death of Mr. Hosokawa it states that Carmen's head was to the left of Mr. Hosokawa's; does that imply that Carmen couldn't have been hit? Do I not understand correctly that Mr. Hosokaw was hit?

Giannina

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I've finally reunited with my copy of the book. Now I can continue the conversation.

In the epilogue, Gen and Thibault lament how the newspapers got it all wrong. Gen says "Everything I've read says there were fifty-nine men and one woman" -- presumably Roxane -- but "Carmen and Beatriz are never mentioned." Thibault agreed, saying that in France there had been no mention of the girls either.

So, I don't think the papers were talking about who lived or died. The count must have been the total number of inhabitants of the house. Thirty-nine male hostages, one female hostage, and twenty kidnappers -- all presumed to be male.

That's the way I read it, anyway.

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I can finally add my voice to this discussion as I finished this book last night. Giannina, your words do say it best. I found the book to have been so captivating (I really didn't intend the pun, honest!) that it was almost as if I were under the spell of Roxanne's voice myself.

I never wanted the book to end and dreaded it for many reasons. Like you, Giannina, I knew there was no way it could have ended well for the terrorists but I was desperately hoping to be surprised. My pulse quickened in the final pages before the hostages were freed. Knowing there'd be a bloodbath, I started reading more and more slowly to keep myself from arriving at that inevitability.

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