Imaginary book club in session

The beauty of having an imaginary book club is that when you finish the book, the whole club finishes. You can also declare the meeting whenever you want and serve calorie free refreshments. Today we’re having spinach artichoke dip. And turkey shaped cookies. With sprinkles. Grab a chair.

The book this time was Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. It’s about a fancy birthday party in South America that gets taken hostage by terrorists. Among the guests are a world class opera singer and an assortment of people from all over the world. The book is significantly less Die Hard than it sounds. It’s more about how the hostages and terrorists learn to co-exist and live together.

One complicated element is that everyone at this party speaks a different language. Multiple translations are required in order to communicate with the group and only one guy at the party knows all the languages. He’s a busy guy. There’s also the added complication of the famous opera singer. She needs to practice so that involves piano playing, sheet music and much adoration from everyone listening.

I have to confess to having a bit of a preconceived notion about the terrorists in this book. Not because they’re terrorists specifically. I just always immediately assume someone that takes hostages is a little bit stupid. Because hostage situations never end well. When’s the last time you heard of any hostage takers getting away let alone getting what they want and getting away? Mostly they end up dead. Or in prison. So if that’s your plan and you’ve reviewed it and decided it’s a good plan, you must be a little stupid in my opinion.

The terrorists in this book are from the jungle and don’t see hostage standoffs on the nightly news though so I guess I should cut them some slack. But seriously, they didn’t plan an escape route. Who the hell green lights a plan that doesn’t include escaping? I refuse to cut slack on that.

On top of that, the terrorist settled into a very comfortable existence with the hostages. Plenty of them were actually enjoying the existence and perfectly happy to stay there forever. Um. Hello? Not wanting to hurt the famous opera singer might necessitate not tossing in tear gas but give me a break. The government does not chill outside forever. In fact, they’re not really chilling. What they’re doing is drawing up plans for how to enter the house by force. They’re also devising a back up plan and a back up plan for the back up plan. But they’re definitely not waiting on you. Because you’re the only one that thinks you’re in charge of the situation.

I also found it sort of strange that none of the hostages were attempting to escape. I understand the opera singer provided nice entertainment. I understand some people were busy falling in love and didn’t want to leave. I even understand that some people might have crappy lives back home they weren’t in a hurry to get back to. But surely someone had kids or a family they missed. And didn’t they care that their wife and kids were worried about them? I’m not saying I’d be carving shanks out of soap or anything but you may rest assured I’d be plotting my escape.

The book is super well written. Someday, when I grow up, I want to write as well as Ann Patchett. She weaves together a complicated fabric of characters and never makes it feel cluttered. Her descriptions are detailed while still simple. I was very impressed. Although she could really learn a thing or two about how to end a book. When I read the last chapter of Bel Canto I swear I thought I read the names wrong. Then I thought maybe someone took on someone else’s identity. And then I just decided to pretend the last 2 pages of the book never happened. And now I like the book a lot more.

Despite the ending that I’m currently boycotting, it was a good book. Interesting and different. While it didn’t make me want to run out and buy opera tickets, it did leave me wanting to have lunch with several of the characters to find out more about them. And I like that in a book. I appreciate the recommendation from I Got Two, Babe.

Next up is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Christy from Love, Family and Life says it’s a must read. Of course she also has her Christmas tree up already so who knows about her. Kidding. Sort of. Whatever.


Meghan said...

I had the same reaction to the last two pages of the book. I've actually told people just to skip that part when they read it. Other than that, I loved it.

witchypoo said...

I enjoyed this book as well.
I was so traumatized by the ending, I forgot it.
But then, I read it last year and my memory isn't so good anymore.

Chaotic Joy said...

Oh. I didn't remember that this is what you read next. I actually picked it up Saturday as part of a stack of books from my used book store. I will read it next and let you know what I think.

The Time Traveller's Wife is one of my favorite books. I am curious to see what you think of it.

Wyliekat said...

Really enjoyed Time Travelers Wife. Very sweet book.

I know you can hear me... said...

I loved the Time Traveler's Wife, although I will admit that it was hard for me to get into at first. But it was so worth it!

I can't wait to hear what you think about it!

a happier girl said...

meghan - Yeah, that last two pages was from left field. I think I would have rather just skipped it like you said.

witchypoo - You're much better off having forgot it.

joy - Please do. I always enjoy hearing other people's impression of books. And I'm excited to get into The Time Traveler's Wife. Everyone seems to really like it.

wylie and i know - I'm excited to read it now that everyone's been telling me how good it is. Yeah, Time Traveler's Wife!

Anne said...

I was thinking of reading the Time Travelers Wife, maybe I will join you - I know we have the other book club thing, but I usually have two going at once.

a happier girl said...

Do it. Everyone keeps telling me how great it is.

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