Welcome to the Reading Buddies wrap-up for Bel Canto by Ann Patchett! I’m just going to come out and say that if you haven’t read the book and might, at some point, you probably want to stop reading now. It’s one of those books that’s easily ruined by spoilers, I think, and seeing as what I most want to discuss is the end, well…you see the problem. If, on the other hand, you’ve read Bel Canto and would like to help me talk through my reactions, by all means, read on!
Here’s an approximate summary of my thought process as I read through the book:
1%-10% read: “As long as Mr. Hosokawa is okay, I can handle this book.”
11%-75% read: “As long as Gen is okay, I can handle this book.”
76&-97% read: “Oh crap, I really want Carmen to be okay but something awful is going to happen, and that will be the end.”
98%-99% read: “Huh, suddenly I don’t care about anyone.”
Let me explain. I started out liking Mr. Hosokawa. He seemed so sweet and genuine. Then the story shifted more to Gen, and I came to really like him, as I mentioned in the discussion post. It wasn’t until we really got to know Carmen that I decided she was an okay girl and got attached to her and Gen as a couple. From the moment they decided to help Mr. Hosokawa and Roxanne, though, I had this terrible feeling that someone was going to get caught and that Carmen would be the one punished. Maybe she’d be discovered helping Mr. Hosokawa, or maybe someone would see her sneak outside with Gen at night, or maybe she’d slip up and say something–I didn’t know, but I got edgy. I knew things couldn’t end well, even though I wasn’t sure what direction the author would take.
Then came the scene where the military made their entrance. I can’t explain why, but it was suddenly like I was reading a different book, like the emotional thread that had pulled me through the entire novel snapped and I didn’t particularly care what happened. I can’t really figure out why this happened; I should have been heartbroken. If not for the terrorists, at least for the hostages. Right?
With the connection lost, I hated what came next. Gen and Roxanne? Just because they’d both lost someone they loved? Really?? I didn’t believe it for a minute. I’d been planning to keep the book, having thought for most of the time I’d been reading that it was quite good, but when I finished it I promptly put it in my “donate” pile. The last few pages ruined the book for me.
Sometimes I get this feeling with authors, like you can trust them to take a story exactly where it needs to go. I know I’m in the minority, but I felt that way about Suzanne Collins as I read The Hunger Games trilogy. Another book that worked the same way for me was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. At this point, though, after having read only Bel Canto, I’m leery of trusting Ann Patchett. I will give her another chance, because (a) I know many people have said her other novels are better, and (b) the first three quarters (and more) of Bel Canto was so good. But two more chances…that might not happen.
What did you think? Am I overreacting? Anyone want to try and make me see why the author chose the ending she did? And if you’ve read others by Ann Patchett, would you advise me as to what I should pick up next? (I have Run on my shelf…)
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