What a beautiful book – a love story set amidst a terrorist attack; quite an unusual premise, but it works.
With a real focus on character and no real plot to speak of (once the initial take over has occurred), the reader is allowed a precious simultaneous insight into the minds of both the victim and the terrorists who each have their own fascinating story. Following the arrival of the terrorists, everyone is basically stuck inside a single building for the whole story and this creates a magnifying glass effect on the narrative perspective. As a result, it is incredible easy to emphasize with both the perpetrators – who made one bad decision and have to live with it, and those held captive – many of whom seem almost happy in their entrapment.
One of the major characters, arguably the protagonist, is Roxanne – opera singer supreme, the only woman to be held. With only the men left, most of whom were already besotted fans, there is infatuation and love in the air. The focus for this love is on Mr. Hosokawa – the man whose birthday had brought them all together in the first place. His love for Rosanne, however, is shadowed by his translator who has fallen in love with one of the terrorists, Carmen, our only other female character.
The story is tense, vividly portrayed and quite surreal at times. Almost tragi-comic, I found it utterly engaging and will be checking out more books by Ann Patchett.
Why? Perhaps not as memorable as it could be because of the flimsy plot. Writing style good but not though provoking.