bel canto

Not flawless – the ending is infuriating and so unfair and I think it’s a gross injustice to the rest of the characters – but really, truly, an amazing novel and I can’t believe more people haven’t read it. The plot does not seem especially thrilling; there’s a dinner party, some terrorists try to take it over and end up staying for a while, and there’s a vague description of all these different people coming together. This story is so much more than that. It’s a story about loving someone for who they are and not just what they do, about befriending a stranger and acknowledging that the resulting friendship is a miracle given all the circumstances and sequences of events that had to add up to meeting one another, about not only recognizing differences among languages and cultures and nations but seizing them, making them matter, valuing them for being humorous or heartfelt or whatever they may be. It almost hurt to read this novel, that’s how incredibly vivid but simple, easy, the writing is. The characters are so well-developed it is unbelievable, kind of like Mrs. Dalloway with the whole idea that something as common as one dinner party can hold so much humanity, but expanded and elaborated and maybe even romanticized more. It’s just so good, I am so impressed and inspired, and I only wish the ending were different, or at the very least that I hadn’t read the epilogue. Also I now love opera; I don’t think you can read this book and not want to wrap yourself up in lyrics and librettos, and that is astonishing in itself.

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