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Toulouse Women's International Group


Next Reading Group Meeting

Venue: Fran Walker’s house in Cornebarrieu

Date: Monday 8th January 2018

Time: 2pm

Contact: Karen Burroughs or Joyce Booth

Details: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Reading Group Review – Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett

TWIG Reading Group December 2017

‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchet (2002) was the book of choice for November is a novel based on real life events: those of the siege of the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru in 1997.
Ann Patchet takes the real events and turns the narrative into a fairy story without ever diminishing the horror of such a situation.
The Bel Canto of the title is the world famous opera singer Roxanne Coss, who is persuaded almost against her better judgement to sing in an embassy in ‘a South American’ country. The bait is money. She is also the bait for an opera loving leader of an electronic company. The host country is hoping he will invest money and employment in their country.
A group of home grown terrorists learn of this event at which the president of the country is supposed to attend. Their plan is simple: storm the embassy; take the president; leave quickly and then use him as a hostage to achieve their demands.
This plan fails immediately because the president is more concerned about the fate of a soap heroine than the fate of his country and stays at home to watch the television. His long suffering vice president is covering for him but they don’t consider him to be a good enough prize. After letting women and the infirm go the hostage takers decide to hang on to the world famous opera singer as a better bet.
Time passes and the multi -cultural mix of hostages and hostage takers have settled into a co-operative existence in which various individuals discover positive things about themselves and others.
Outside the compound of course the real world is there. Only one outcome is inevitable and when it comes it is brutal.
We all enjoyed this book finding it well written, easy to read and very gripping. It has such depths of characterization we were able to sympathise with the characters including the terrorists. We all knew how it had to end but because she makes us empathise with the protagonists we hope some thing else will occur. A brilliant book. It may even have prompted some of us to consider investigating opera for the first time.