In Bel Canto , Ann Patchett explores how people of different nationalities, ages and interests interact when isolated from the outside world. The book begins when, through a series of unlikely events, the head of a successful electronics company, an accomplished opera singer and numerous government officials of a Latin American country all become hostages of a terrorist group. Although the terrorists’ original plan was to only take hostage the president, when the terrorists realize the president is not in attendance a 4-month standoff between the guerrillas and the government begins.
What starts as a violent conflict of cultures gradually turns into a functioning community of people as the hostages and terrorists begin to heavily rely on each other. As language barriers are overcome and love affairs blossom, the life of a hostage actually becomes enjoyable. The stresses that dominated the characters’ lives seem to disappear and their attention instead becomes focused solely on the present and on the people with whom they are spending their days. However, this unlikely microcosm cannot last forever and what began with an act of violence also inevitably will end with one too.