Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bel Canto: 4 Stars

In an unnamed South American country, a party is being held in honor of the owner of an elite electronics company. The country really wants the company to build a factory there to stimulate the economy, so they threw a lavish party for his birthday, inviting his favorite opera singer. The man, Hosokawa, has no intention of building a thing in the country, but he could not resist the chance to meet Roxane Coss, a woman whose music has warmed his heart. Everyone of importance is attendance, except for the president of the country who feigns ill to stay home and catch up on his soaps; a wise decision in the end. 

The nights beauty ends abruptly when the lights go out.  While seeming to be a simple power outage, it is actually a calculated attack by a rebel army with the goal to take the president captive.  Upon finding him absent, the gang decides to keep the majority of the party captive; a decision that lasts months. 

The majority of this novel revolves around the relationship of the the captors and the victims during the months of stand off. The author tells you in the first chapter who will survive and who will not. This almost makes it harder to bear as you slowly get to know each person. Wile many may cry that the victims begin to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, I would say that they just understand those holding them against their will. 

Since I do not live in a country with such problems, this concept of month long stand offs is very foreign.  However, they do happen.  In fact, this book is based on actual events.  In 1996 in Lima, Peru,
14 members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took hundreds of people hostage who were attending a party at the home of Japan's ambassador to Peru, Morihisa Aoki, in celebration of Emperor Akihito's 63rd birthday. While most hostages were freed, the remaining hostages were held 126 days. That situation ended in similar fashion to the book.

This book, while unbelievably sad, is rather eye opening. The book was moving. The world is not black and white.  There are not clear cut bad guys and good guys.  Everyone is gray. Every situation is gray if you look at it deep enough. I commend the author for their ability to convey the emotions and reality of a very gray situation.

Also, the ease with which she used music to convey the beauty and love of the situation and people was magnificent. 

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