Wednesday, January 18, 2017

JRW Book Discussion: BEL CANTO

LUCY BURDETTE: The day has arrived for our Jungle Red Writers book club discussion of BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett. Hopefully you've had time to read or reread and are ready to chat. Kristopher Zigorski of BOLO BOOKS will be our facilitator today.

1. Bel Canto has been bestowed with (or saddled with) the moniker of being a “literary” novel, and yet it contains many of the hallmarks readers associate with genre novels – crime fiction in particular.  Why do you think critics feel the need to label things “literary” as a way to elevate them?  And do you agree that Bel Canto is more “literary” than thriller?

2. How does the closed environment setting of the mansion work to elevate the suspense?

3. Think about the role language plays throughout Bel Canto. Keep in mind that music is referred to as “the universal language.”  How do music and language serve different roles with in the action of the novel?

4. Think about which characters are the most interesting to you and try to get a sense of why that might be. Do you think Ann Patchett intended readers to feel closer to some characters over others?

5. Bel Canto was released in May 2001, just a few months before the September 11 terrorist attacks. Do you think US readers experience the novel differently now that the risk of such attacks on home soil is no longer unthinkable?

Listen to performances of two opera arias important within the story of Bel Canto. It is worth noting here that Renee Fleming is generally accepted to be the inspiration for Roxanne Coss – the diva in the novel.

Renee Fleming performing Song to the Moon:

Angela Gheorghiu performing O mio babbino caro:

Lastly, in November 2015, Bel Canto (the novel) was turned into Bel Canto (the opera) having a premiere at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Here is a sampling of the music, sets, and costumes from that production:

Lucy again: The system for our discussion will probably be a little clunky--you can post any answer any time today--just label it with the corresponding number. Any other comments always welcome! And thank you Kristopher Zgorski


  1. Thanks so much for the video clips . . . they are great!

    Here are my thoughts on the questions:

    1. I’m uncertain as to whether or not identifying a book as literary is an affectation adapted by the critics; perhaps their literary novel classification is a recognition of the book’s appeal to a wide range of readers, not just those who enjoy the crime fiction genre.
    Personal motivation, experiences, and thoughts . . . along with the underlying story thread that acts upon them . . . may serve to elevate a book from genre to literary in some people’s minds, but success for the book doesn’t necessarily hinge on acquiring this label. Personally, I don’t see this as an important distinction since, if the book is well-written, the genre to which critics assign it is not particularly meaningful. There’s no reason Bel Canto cannot carry both labels.


  2. 2. When the terrorists barge into the mansion in the beginning of the story, the conflict between the terrorists and the guests looms over everything else. The terrorists are very much “in your face” while the guests are frightened and cowed. It is clear that the terrorists believe that by cutting off the external elements and isolating the guests in the mansion they will easily maintain their control over them; they expect the guests/hostages to remain fearful. Doors guarded by terrorists with guns serve to restrict both the people and the unfolding story; the confining nature of the mansion creates tension for both groups.
    But with the passage of time, both terrorists and hostages establish a new “normal.” Unexpected events keep the aura of suspense intact but with new behaviors and routines, the tenor of the suspense in the mansion changes.

    3. Music is universal in its expression; it can move the listener to laughter or to tears. It touches each person who hears it, makes a connection with something deep within. Opera is passionate, emotional, melodramatic . . . the enormity of it fills the room and sweeps the listener away.
    The music transformed each of the characters, uniting both groups in an unanticipated way. Terror gave way to acts of kindness, to a growing understanding as it became possible to see the person inside the uniform, to discover the humanity that unites everyone.
    Thrown together by circumstance, the terrorists and their hostages formed a sort of a community in which people in both groups changed over the course of the captivity. Both the language and the music are transcendent, holding the power to unite the people as they bring love and beauty into a world wracked with fear.

  3. 4. My initial thought is that the author planned for some of her characters to be secondary, to fill in spaces in the story without taking center stage. The characters standing at the forefront of the story drive it forward; the others deliver the richness of detail, create the background that holds the story together. Both are essential to the telling of the tale.

    5. I believe the answer must be yes because everything after September 11th has been colored by the terrorist attacks that occurred on that day. September 11th has become a divider between how Americans used to see the world in the before time and how Americans now see the world in the after time. September 11th has become a part of the fabric of our lives, forever coloring the way in which we see the world.

    Interestingly enough, the 2001 terrorist attacks and the 1979 Iran hostage crisis created similar impacts in the United States. Patriotism united a frightened nation . . . flags flew everywhere . . . television gave daily reports and updates. The hostage crisis began on November 4, 1979 and it soon became clear that it was not going to be resolved in a timely manner. In January 1980, Walter Cronkite began a ritual that would continue throughout the remaining days of the crisis when he began ending each “CBS Evening News” broadcast by stating how many days the hostages had been captives.

    But the significant difference is that the terrorist attacks were attacks on American soil and, despite the real and widespread concern over the hostages in Iran, there was an insulator of distance. That changed forever on September 11th . . . .

  4. It's been quite a few years since I first read Bel Canto, and I was just a bit fearful that it might not hold up to my memory as one of the best books I've ever read. I shouldn't have worried. It was a powerful, as beautiful, as mesmerizing as I remembered. Before writing Bel Canto, Ann Patchett knew nothing about opera, but she sought out that knowledge and now is passionate about it. While I am where Ann Patchett was in my dearth of knowledge concerning opera before she penned this book, I think one can read Bel Canto without that knowledge. However, this second reading has aroused my interest in opera, so I look forward to becoming more educated about it and attending an opera.

    Now, to the questions:
    1. By definition literary fiction "involves social commentary, or political criticism, or focuses on the human condition. ..." Ann Patchett has described herself as a social and political novelist, and she has said that "the value of literary fiction is that the writer brings half and the reader brings half" and "you have to leave enough space o let the book become something different with each reading." For me, that is both an acceptable definition and Patchett's take on her writing and on literary fiction is spot on. That some critics use the term "literary novel" as a means to elevate a novel is not the fault of the term itself. I think that the literary novel or literary fiction moniker serves a useful purpose. It doesn't mean or shouldn't mean that literary fiction is better than genre fiction, and I do think that we learn about the human condition in both, but literary fiction does have the intent of social or political commentary with which the reader must make choices of agreement or involvement. Again, genre fiction can certainly have these attributes, but it comes down to intent. Great books are written under all labels.

    2. The closed environment setting of the mansion throws the hostages and terrorists into an immediate closeness where at first the fear of a wrong word or a wrong action by the hostages creates a pervasive suspense of whether they will live or die. There hangs over the entire group the fear of the unpredictable, neither side trusting the other, as they are at cross purposes in what they want. The terrorists want demands met; the hostages want to be freed without delay. Even when rules are relaxed and the hostages and the terrorists come to know one another, the close proximity provides suspenseful moments of secret meetings with the potential to bring disaster because of the familiarity with who should be where in the confined space of the house. And, throughout the book there is a place for the hostages and a place for the terrorists, and although those lines become blurred, there is a need with some of the younger terrorists to maintain their territory.

    3. The first thought that I have on this question is that, of course, music is the unifying force that brings both groups to the same places, those of beauty and grace and great emotion. The power of the opera singing especially demands attention, and the passion of it cannot be denied. The music has a hypnotic quality that levels the playing ground, bringing forth memories and feelings that all have, no matter how deeply buried or denied. The common threads of joy and sadness and love and loss penetrate the wall of anonymity, revealing people with names and faces.

    The different spoken languages that people use in the group both unite and divide people. Those speaking the same language are less likely to misunderstand one another and can feel some comfort and trust in the familiarity of that bond. But, with the inability to communicate as one whole group, there is confusion and frustration at times. At the beginning this confusion and frustration creates a dangerous atmosphere where the hostages are sure they will be killed. Gen's presence as a translator is crucial to the safety of all.

  5. 4. The characters who are most interesting to me no doubt fall under influences by Patchett's intentions that they be so, but don't all authors present characters that they intend you to be more sympathetic or less sympathetic toward. I think that the pairing of Roxane Coss and Mr. Hosokawa seems to be a deliberate attempt to demonstrate one of Patchett's main premises, that music can transcend any conventional means of communicating, such as speech or writing. And, their pairing and that of Gen and Carmen are used to exemplify that people who are perceived as different are all part of the human experience and have more in common than not.

    5. Ann Patchett's inspiration for Bel Canto came from terrorist organization Tupac Amaur's takeover of the Japanese embassy in Lima, Peru in December 1996. So, her idea for the novel began with an attack in a foreign country, but she was able to make it a universal experience I think. However, before the September 11th attacks, a terrorist attack was more the stuff of foreign countries where hostilities had been in place for centuries. Our Civil War had come and gone some 130 years past, and subsequent wars in which our country engaged were fought on other soil. After 9-11, we can't help but incorporate that fear of attack into our reading of this novel and any other novel dealing with terrorists. It is no longer outside the realm of my imagination to put myself in the place of one of these hostages in the book. The drills companies and schools do today come from a sense of actual vulnerability.

  6. Oh, and I want to thank you, Kristopher, for the clips, too. I would have loved to see the Bel Canto opera. I'm assuming that it's not available now? Rereading this novel and listening to these clips have convinced me that I need to see an opera in Toronto before Bouchercon, if I can work it out to go.

    And, there apparently is going to be a movie of Bel Canto out this year, with Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe. It's directed by Paul Weitz, who directed “About a Boy” and “Grandma” and produced Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle.” I can't seem to find when exactly it will be out. Anyone?

  7. Kathy and Joan are up bright and early this morning (and every morning) with some wonderful commentary on Bel Canto. Let's hope that I can be at least half as coherent at this hour.

    1. I'm so glad to hear these comments about the "literary novel." In many ways, any such designation is an artificial constraint placed on a book - to help with marketing, placement in stores, and likely award consideration. Ann Patchett does play with the conventions of the thriller in Bel Canto, most notably by pretty much telling us how things will end right from the start, so it is clear that the book is intended to be more about the characters, I think. But I would hope that all authors place character very high on their scale of importance.

    5. On September 11, America entered a new phase of fear when terrorist attacks on such a large scale physically touched our country. What was seen as something that happened "elsewhere" was suddenly in our backyards. While we know from other clues that Bel Canto is set in a South American country, it could easily have been set here in the US - and given the week ahead, we continue to be a nation divided.

  8. Good morning everyone--we have some wonderful early bird students! I hadn't read this book in years, so I worried too Kathy, whether it would hold up. It was beautiful and moving this time around too.

    We are so surrounded by acts of terrorism these days--and mostly vicious, lethal attacks that leave no room for imagining a rapprochement between captors and prisoners. So this version of an attack felt almost like fantasy to me. And wasn't it interesting how the Swiss mediator gradually began to fall apart? I'm thinking of that as I watch John Kerry and Samantha Power and others leave their posts to make way for the new administration.

    thanks for all your work on this Kristopher!

  9. We can all just be happy listening to those video clips all day - glorious music!!

    As for the opera, no doubt other opera companies will pick it up and produces it at some stage. It was very successful for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. I'm sure at some point a recording will be made, but that rarely happens for new operas until they are more entrenched in the repertoire.

    I remember waiting years until I could hear anything from Cold Sassy Tree (another book to opera property).

  10. LOVE the clips! Amazing.

    I will confess that I read this book long ago--and it is enduringly one of my favorites.

    Question 3--I was massively impressed with the author for this land mine of a theme--when the tables turn, and the story becomes all about translation, it's such a joy to realize the role music plays to connect as well as distance. And the balance of power shifts, too, right? Because of that? And if I remember correctly, the theme is never stated--it's left for the reader to unearth. Such a lesson!

    Thank you, dear Kris!

  11. 3. There are just some things that can't be put in to words, right? Like Hank said, this underlying theme of translation, the power of feeling over saying, and the way words (and the ability to communicate) have of dictating who is in power are all interesting topics unearthed in the novel.

  12. I'm so glad we read this together. I also read it years ago, but apparently was asleep while I did so, because the story didn't seem familiar at all. But Patchett has richly imagined a world with well-defined and remarkable characters, hasn't she?

    #3 Language, to me, is the theme of this book, if you drill down to the core of it. It's expressed so many different ways: the language of music, the polyglot facility of one character on whom the entire story depends, secrets withheld because of language barriers, and the transcendence of language by deeper knowledge of each other. It was beautifully woven together and the fabric of language wrapped around every facet of this story. The heartbreak of inability to communicate, vs. the sweetness of communicating through the music, or a look, or the surreptitious touch of a hand.

    Even though opera is along for the ride here, I think it's just one of the many languages being "spoken" in the room where the entire book takes place. It's a unifying language, though because in many ways it's more easily understood than the Japanese, English, Quechua or Russian of each individual.

    Gen (pronounced with a hard "G", Patchett says, which would have been nice to know at the beginning), is the glue that makes the whole enforced community work. Without his ability to understand each person and to help others comprehend and communicate, there would be no story. Everyone would have been shot, captured, done. Such an intriguing character, too. He remained part of the background for so much of the book, didn't he, merely serving as an extension of everyone else for a long time.

  13. First, thanks to Kristopher for hosting and posting such thought-provoking questions. I received Bel Canton as a gift in a book exchange a couple years ago and I was very excited because I'd heard such great things about it (notably from Hank).

    I'm going to cautiously dip a toe in this discussion - cautious, because, well, you'll see why in a moment.

    1. Literary vs genre: I hate this designation. Really. I think it's a mostly artificial line drawn by critics who are (mostly) looking at consideration for awards. The prevailing thought is that literary is more about characters and genre is more about plot, but I'm with Kristopher. I hope all authors pay attention to characters. As my husband said at Bouchercon in NOLA, "I want to read stories about people. Not events. The events are cool, but it's the people that matter." The ONLY thing I will say is that a lot of books labeled "literary" seem to have much more relaxed plots - slower, if that makes sense. (It might not make sense. I can't breathe, I'm hopped up on cold medicine, and I haven't had enough tea yet.)

    Which leads me to...

    5. The language is the thing I loved best about this book. It was so lush and descriptive. Just like an opera, now that I think about it. However...the plot lost me after a while. The story certainly started with a bang. The terrorists disrupting the party. And I was intrigued by relationships (Roxanne and Mr. Hosokawa, Gen and Carmen). But the events started to...creep and I started losing -- not interest, but immediacy. I'd pick up the book, read a few pages, and put it down. I didn't feel any drive to read the entire thing. And maybe that's okay, and that's what Patchett intended. I don't know. But after a while I just wanted something, anything, to happen. Too much talking, not enough "doing" if you know what I mean.

    It's a book I'm glad I read and it has some valuable lessons in use of language and characterization -- but I don't think I'd read it again. I liked it -- but I didn't love it.

  14. I'm not an opera buff, and have only been to a few performances, but I love the music for itself. Patchett says she wanted this story to have elements of an opera, which it does, but without the soap opera feel of many of the librettos of famous works. That melodrama aspect, I think, is why opera gets criticized; like a soap opera, the story often moves with lightning speed, unrealistically. Boy meets girl, girl falls deeply in love in two minutes, and so on. Many novels also proceed in such a way, and it takes a lot of suspended disbelief to get through them.

    By contrast, this book's relationships develop much more organically, over time and gradually. There are still aspects of melodrama, but it's a much more believable story because of the time factor.

    I'm sorry, Kristopher, this didn't seem to fall under any of the headings, but I still wanted to discuss it. Hope you don't mind.

  15. Those first few notes of O Mio Babbino have the ability to turn me into a blubbering mess.

  16. Not at all Karen, I had hoped the discussion would evolve.

    I agree with you about opera and Mary's "problems" with the novel are those also inherent in opera. For the most part, not much happens in many operas - a little action, followed by an aria (which is typically the interworkings of a characters mind), and some more action. Then someone dies.

    LOL. Of course, that is a stereotype, but like most stereotypes, it exists for a reason. Bel Canto is a slow book, and I think it's ok to drop in from time to time rather than read through.

    Also, it's no accident that the President of this unnamed county is not at this party because he is staying home to watch a Soap Opera - which is both the antithesis of AND very similar to Opera (the art form).

  17. 1. Bel Canto (BC) lacks the short chapters full of he-man dialogue concerning weapons, cars, whisky, and women typical of a thriller. BC is much better written than a pulp thriller, with smooth transitions between each character's deep POV. It doesn't scream "look at me I wrote this for my MFA thesis" which usually makes me throw the book across the room. It's subtle, like an opera performance. Perhaps it's "literary" because we are forced to slow down and savor the prose.

    2. We're told early in the book that the hostages are freed, so we read on, determined to discover not only when, but how. The setting and plot are an opera; I can visualize the stage, the main set in the living room, with large windows out to the garden.

    3. Music as a universal language bridges the gap between hostage groups of different nationalities and languages and the soldiers. Gen the translator provides a more linguistic bridge. The many foreign languages (even the soldiers speak a dialect) are a emblem of the constant confusion and tension in the house.

    4. I envied Gen's gift as an able translator and knowledge many languages. I liked Thibault and the cooking scenes. Carmen was appealing, but doomed from the start. Roxane was beautiful, talented, and unworldly, until the details of her own survival techniques are revealed (her bath, the silk pajamas).

    5. We have become inured to violence and terror, in the books we read, the movies we see, and on the streets where we live.

  18. Thank you, Reds, for giving me the nudge to read this book, and to Kristopher for moderating. I loved it.

    I have had the benefit of reading many previous comments, and I have to say, Karen in Ohio, you really nailed it: language is the theme of this book. In addition to the language of music and the various languages spoken by the different characters, there was a lot of attention paid to body language, as well, and times when characters' body language laid lie to their spoken words.

    Mary, your comments really interested me. I loved the book, but I certainly understand what you mean about the pacing. The book would have intensely interesting moments then meander a while before the next movement of plot or relationship. But for me, it tended to get to the action just before I would have become restless or disinterested. And I guess I thought that pacing served to reinforce the situation in which the characters found themselves. We could somewhat understand how desperate they were for action or distraction because we, too, experienced a taste of the tedium of their days.

    Finally, in answer (ish) to question 1: I am no expert on genres, and I know there's a certain snobbery around "literary fiction." But I do feel like there is something different in the feel of this novel than in what I think of as suspense or crime novels. It is about a crime, and there are certainly moments of suspense, but the driving force of it is the beautiful language, and the flights of fancy we take within various characters' minds, and the slowly developing relationships. The "action" seems to be a servant to these things.

    Again, thank you all for bringing this book to the top of my TBR pile, with a deadline attached!

  19. Susan yes, exactly! I'd be reading and think, "Oh, something big is going to happen" and then it didn't. It left me feeling disillusioned, so I'd put the book down and go do something because I felt the need to.

    For me, it made the story feel a little weird. I'm much more used to a story with a constant sense of forward motion. This one moved forward in little bursts.

  20. I'm so happy to see that folks loved the reading experience of this book. Like Susan says, it's certainly not a typical thriller with action at every corner, but I do think that it presents rewards at the end.

    I suspect for those that are reading this book for the first time, they will experience what those of use who had previously read it experienced - that is, moments where the book will come back to mind, unexpectedly, with a feeling of nostalgia.

  21. Mary, I don't think your feeling is unusual or at all off the mark. One has to imagine that after four months in such captivity, days would drone on with not much excitement. The pacing is different, for sure.

  22. Mary, I'm with you. I have to admit that this was one of those books that I absolutely wanted to love, but just didn't. I actually liked her novel "Run" better. The pacing was an issue with me, and I was also trying to wrap my brain around the idea of falling in love with someone with whom I didn't have a common language (other than music.) I know I'm in the minority on this...

  23. Your point is interesting, Ingrid. I can see a case made for their love not being "real" and more of a Stockholm syndrome situation - shared trauma creating a bond.

    The romantic in me wants the love Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa to be genuine, but as for she and Gen ending up together, I feel this is less about love and more about paying tribute to the people they have lost.

    And on a side note, I am also a huge fan of RUN - another novel that would be timely in our current political climate.

  24. Oh boy, now going to have to add RUN to my teetering pile.

    I saw Roxane and Gen getting together a little differently Kristopher--more a function of a shared trauma that anyone outside of the house could never have understood...or so they might have felt. Interesting because I don't remember noticing any spark between those two over the course of the book.

  25. I think we agree on that Lucy. What I meant was that Gen and Roxane's relationship springs from their experiences. I just didn't express it very well. ;)

    And I agree, I'd be hard pressed to find a textual evidence of a romantic interest between those two during the crisis.

  26. Ah, well, I have been a bit hesitant to read the comments today because I still have about 70 pages left in the book! I made myself put it down at two in the morning. No problems with pacing at all for me, and I'm very caught up the tension between knowing that it somehow has to end, and wanting to freeze these moments in time for the characters.

    Karen, I think, is so right about the language. It's not only about language and the ways the characters find to communicate with each other, but the language in the book itself makes me feel the same sort of euphoria that the characters feel when listening to Roxanne sing. This will go down as one of handful of books in which the language makes me giddy. Does that make it literary? I don't know. I've never liked the genre/literary distinction.

    I've got an interview in five, so more later on.

    Thank you, Roberta and Kristopher, for pushing me to read this book which had been languishing on my shelves for years, and will probably end up as one of my half dozen favorite novels!

  27. Roberta, there are a couple of passages in the book where Gen is said to be in love with Roxane. They're fairly oblique references, and the love referred to is in the vein of admiration for her talents. But Gen also loves Mr. Hosokawa, and it made perfect sense to me that they ended up together because that way he wouldn't lose that (slim) connection.

  28. Finding a common language would seem to be one theme of Bel Canto. Everything halts and quiets when Roxanne sings. All street noises cease while people outside the wall listen. I love that different people, hostage and captor alike, try to learn new languages so they can communicate. I enjoyed how the story unfolded very slowly and what various characters revealed about themselves over the course of the book. Normally I enjoy action but I was in no rush for it as we are told there will be no happy ending. People reveal their talents and step up to the plate. Thibault takes over the cooking chores. Lovely Ruben tries to be the good host despite the circumstances and keep the house clean. Mr Kato reveals his skills playing the piano.
    Men and boys play chess. Singing lessons, language lessons happen. This group starts becoming a family in their activities. It was amazing to watch it happening.

  29. Ingrid, I'm a fan of Run by Patchett, too. Also, State of Wonder is a great read. I'm still trying to get to Commnwealth, but I will soon. So, Lucy, you will be glad you added Run to you TBR list.

    On the relationship between Gen and Roxanne. I do agree with Lucy and Kristopher that it was born out of the trauma they both suffered and that it was rather a tribute to those who didn't make it. They represented all the love that had developed between the hostages and the terrorists. In order to move forward, they simply couldn't leave all that love behind, and so they needed each other to keep it alive. Gen says on page 303, before the rescuers arrive, "How had (I) fallen in love with so many people?" he's talking to Messner for the last time, and Gen is trying to think up scenarios that would save Carmen, thinking that she, Beatriz, Ishmael, and Cesar couldn't possibly be arrested (at best). And, I do believe, because we always think beyond the ending of a book, that Roxanne and Gen will have a happy marriage, full of genuine affection for the individuals they are.

  30. Kristopher, I will have to disagree with you about one thing. I don't think that Bel Canto is a book that you can drop in from time to time in your reading of it. I'm not saying that you have to read it all in one sitting. But, I think to truly become ensconced in the atmosphere, the characters, and the feeling of community, a reader needs to read good size chunks at a time. To use the music metaphor, when listening to a piece of music or playing a piece of music, there are movements within the music that would be missed if not listened to in their entirety. There are some natural stopping points in the book, which are easily recognizable, but maybe more so for me because it was a second reading. After chapter three, when the other women hostages had been released and Roxanne was established into her captivity, would be a good point for first time readers to take a break. But, it is putting yourself in the continued occupation of that house that allows you to form a better understanding of the bonds and characters. I think that the book is best appreciated and loved when the reader is able to commit to it, to the staying up late and ignoring housework and grabbing it when one comes in from work. And, even as I said that, I do realize that real life can interfere, but I also know that this book deserves uninterrupted attention.

  31. Something else I saw mentioned somewhere in my reading about Bel Canto. DEBS, don't read this comment if you haven't finished the book.

    When Mr. Hosokawa throws Carmen behind him as the rescuer raises his gun, do you think it was matter of Mr. Hosokawa knowing that life would never again be what he had experienced here with Roxanne, as well as he trying to save Carmen? In other words, do you think it was a form of suicide on Mr. Hosokawa's part? On page 167, Mr. Hosokawa thinks to himself, "Happiness, if he was right to use that word was something that until now he had only experienced in music." Was he wanting to die with the taste of true happiness still on his lips, being unable to bear what his life had been without it? I'm not saying he wasn't being heroic and trying to save Carmen, but do you think his action served a dual purpose?

  32. Kathy, I'm not sure that I could read it by dipping in and out of the book either. But for those who found it uninteresting, that might be an experience that works for them. Like you, I like to get attached to the characters and that happens by immersing myself in the tale.

    As for the ending, I think you have made a good case for the dual purpose.

  33. Just in case I don't get back here later, I want thank Roberta for asking me to moderate this first Jungle Red book discussion. All things considered, I think it went pretty well. Not the same as sitting around to discuss a book, but if it allowed some folks to discover a new book they loved (or didn't love), that can never be a bad thing.

  34. Kristopher, I hope you stop back again, because I want to thank you for moderating this discussion. As always with moderating, whether a panel or a discussion, you've done a great job. You are always open to different opinions and provide such articulate comments yourself. You are an exceptional guiding hand.

  35. YAY Kristopher! COme back soon! (What should we read next? A classic mystery?)

  36. Kristopher, thanks a million for your willingness to lead and all the advance work you did. I thought it was a wonderful day of discussion!

  37. In case anyone is catching up on this thread, I did discover that the Lyric Opera of Chicago production of the opera based on the novel is available streaming via PBS Great Performances:

  38. I am currently reading the thread commments. Sounds like the book is so interesting to read.Gonna search and buy this one. Thanks.