Built around the tension of a political hostage situation in an unnamed South American country, the story focuses on an eclectic mix of characters thrown together in unusual circumstances, and how time is suspended for them. One of the captives, an opera singer, enraptures them all with her daily singing practice. Orange Prize, 2002.
Comments from Groups
This book generated more universal approval than any other book our group has shared. We loved the way Patchett expanded the characters to the extent we could feel their fear, their pain and their boredom. Nelson 044
We all loved this book, although were split over the ending. Had the most discussion of a book yet. We all agreed she was an excellent storyteller. Waitati 003
Mixed feelings about the book - some couldn't get into it. No one liked the ending however we did like the way she painted the picture of the claustrophobia of the containment in a large space. We were intriqued by the unexpected relationships between the characters. Cambridge 005
Everyone enjoyed this one, much to their relief as the violence was anticiapted with dread. We found instead that a distance was created by the author and there was much to amuse the reader.Ngongotaha 001
There was a mixed reception to this book. It did provoke a good discussion. Some found the story credible, others found it incredible. We all agreed it was vividly written. Akaroa 002
We loved this book. Very character driven. Central themes reflect on love and beauty. Easy to read with strong but subtle themes.
Everyone thought this was a great book - and it provoked a good discussion. Comments included "well constructed, wise and beautifully written".
Divided opinion. Some found the book very interesting, amazed that it was based on a real event, great characters, gentle humour and a riveting plot. Others found it dull and dry! Sometimes it's hard to believe we've read the same book.
Most interesting - some really loved it, a few thought it a bit slow moving. Provoked good discussion of the way in which the hostages and the terrorists became almost "time transferred" the longer the stand-off continued. Also we all liked the characterisations - everybody warmed to the little Vice President who cleaned up his lovely house once the servants were released!
We enjoyed this book. The pace was slow at first - but her writing is so good it didn't matter.
Interesting characters and relationships in this story - made for some good discussion.
Most of us enjoyed this book, finding it an interesting, easy read. The strong visual detail and colourful characters with their evolving relationships appealed, as did the moving moments and element of humour. One person finding it overly drawn out. The questions generated good discussion, especially about the effects on people - whether hostages or terrorists - of being in such a highly unusual situation. We had mixed views on the epilogue: some appreciated it; others thought it was an artificial device to create a 'happy ending'.
Variable response - all enjoyed the writing but some did find the pace of the novel a bit slow. Ending was generally thought to be unnecessary. An interesting discussion - notes were very much appreciated by our group members.
Initially, some thought the book "unrealistic" but all felt they got into the book as they read on - characterisation very good. Everyone shocked by the later sudden and extreme violence. The guerilla leaders seemed to show a surprising lack of planning. Highly rated in the end.
Most people enjoyed it, but found the ending unsatisfactory - very rushed. One person did not like it, she said it went into too much detail. Everyone liked the development of the characters.
Most members thoroughly enjoyed this book and are looking forward to reading more of Ann Patchett. Felt her prose was beautifully descriptive.