Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - What We're Reading Wednesday

Just popping in with a very quick review of what we've been reading lately, because I love linking up with the lovely literary ladies at Housewifespice! Go see them all!

Don't you just love it when a book can create its own completely different world? I was surprised that Bel Canto did this so effortlessly when its about such strange sounding subject matter.

Bel Canto's story centres upon the hostage taking of a party of international bigwigs gathered for a private performance of the world's premiere opera star. What follows is a completely unexpected portrayal of humanity. But not the ugly, malicious, survival traits that humans are driven to in time of crisis, but the simple and good ones like love of music, the development of relationships despite language barriers, and how love surprises even in the strangest of circumstances.

Ann Patchett's writing is wonderful. It is such a well-crafted book when so little of it relies on direct action. The prose is finely tuned and melodious just like the opera music she describes in the story.

I've never read Patchett before, and I'm not sure if she practices any faith, but her description of a priest as one of the hostages was very well portrayed. I seem to always be aware as to how Catholic characters are treated in novels, and in this particular book I thought the author showed a beautiful look at the faith and the work of a good priest. She also treated the sacraments in an almost devout and reverent way. I think its a pleasant surprise when secular writers are respectful of the sacraments and faith in their writing, and I think it's always a good thing to take note of when recommending.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel for what seemed like such a bizarre storyline. I also really enjoyed all the musical illusions as I feel like a bit of an opera geek at times. But don't be put off by the opera-ness if you've never paid attention to it before, Patchett weaves it into the story seamlessly so you're not bored with umpteen pages of descriptions of librettos or anything. Check this one out if you're in the mood for a real novel of beauty.

Bonus Picture Book

I just had to mention this sweet book we've been reading around here the last couple weeks. The Cow Who Fell in the Canal by Phyllis Krasilovsky is a lovely childrens book that the kids have really enjoyed. Its a story of a Dutch milk cow who wants to see the big city and gets there in a surprising way. I won't spoil it for you!

The story is one of those simple stories that kids just seem to gravitate to. The illustrations are amazing. I love all the detail Spier puts into his work, and if you look closely at this one you see everything from little babies playing in yards, to beautifully drawn store windows with Dutch names. I also really love the portrayal of Holland with clogs, cheese, canals, and tulips. You and the kids will love it! (I can't believe this is out of print! We borrowed it from the library but now I'm going to track it down and buy it.)

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  1. Bel Canto was ABSOLUTELY my favorite book in college. I was glued to the very end!

  2. That picture book looks so sweet! Peter Spier is one of our favorites.

  3. I've been reading here for a while but haven't commented yet - thanks for a great blog! I'm so delighted you posted about 'The Cow who fell in the canal'. It was one of my favourites as a child and I had completely forgotten about it. I'm going to order a second hand copy now...

  4. I think Bel Canto is a wonderful story; a good lesson on the value of simple human encounter and the spiritual rewards that we find in paying attention to the people we travel the earth with every day.

    A really fine read.

    Alaskan Brown Bear Hunts guided


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