Bel Canto by Patchett is a delightful read. Really it's a meditation on the place of love, art, and beauty in everyday life. It takes place in an un-named South American counrry where a group of terrorists take over the Vice-Presidential palace. At the Vice-Presidential palace are many international figures who have come to celebrate the birthday of a Japanese businessman who may be interested in investing in a business in the small country. Among the guests is an opera singer whose mesmerizing voice provides cover for the terrorists to take over
Patchett makes each character interesting and explores the ways in which the disparate group becomes a community. The opera singer, Roxanne Coss, plays a large role in this community by singing and training one of the young terrorists to sing as well. Many of the members of the party become intimate with the terrorists and both groups are surprised by the humanity of the other.
Earlier this year, I read Lucy Grealey's Autobiography of a face. Grealey and Patchett were friends and it's interesting to see how the themes of beauty and love play out in two very different works. I would recommend Bel Canto.