Book review: Bel Canto

13 Feb 2019 / 10:45 H.

BY K. K. Wong

IT’S not every day that a story, which unfolds in just one location and with a limited number of characters, manages to mesmerise you.

No wonder then that Bel Canto is already a major motion picture starring Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe.

The beginning is normal enough. And it might even become a tad tedious at first, but as you read on, you are soon sucked in and find yourself as much a part of the scenery as the characters.

It begins at the home of the vice president of a country somewhere in South America. A party is being held in honour of Mr Hosokawa, a powerful businessman.

This is a man who normally does not make an appearance, except that this time, there’s an alluring bait – Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano.

It would have been a perfect evening – until a band of gun-wielding guerrillas takes the entire party hostage. Demands are made and negotiations get under way, but the government is not about to cave in.

Hours turn into days, and days into weeks, and slowly, the tense situation evolves into something quite different, with guerrillas and hostages forging unexpected bonds.

Things are such that some people would prefer the situation to go on indefinitely.

Even the reader is lulled into a sense of complacency, which makes the explosive finale all the more heartbreaking.

Bel Canto is a spell-binding read, and has all the ingredients to turn it into a blockbuster movie. The ending, however, left me a little bewildered, wondering if I have missed something somewhere.

That little detail somewhat spoilt the experience for me. Otherwise, it was an entertaining read.

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