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Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2002 Women's Prize for Fiction Winner

Bel Canto: A Novel by Ann Pratchett


Publisher: Perennial (Harper Collins)

Length: 336

About: Terrorists and hostages become one

Style: 3rd person

Where: Unnamed South American country

When: 2002



Publisher’s synopsis:

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening - until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.





Why was it only now that he understood that things would end badly? It didn't seem strange that he knew it, but that he hadn't known it from the very start.






Patchett takes her time getting there, but by the climax of her story, you find yourself hoping that the idyll will -- somehow, magically -- last. Of course, it can't. The fact that it lasts as long as it does, in such improbable circumstances, is a testament to her own magical powers.

Daniel Mendelsohn New York Magazine June 18th 2001


Not so good:

The novel stumbles on an imbalance of perspective. We never really come to know the depth of desperation that has driven the captors to this reckless act, and we never get a sense of the political climate that would allow a hostage situation to drag on for months. Patchett is so focused on the small human details that she tends to brainwash the reader, as she has her captives, that life has ceased to exist outside the walls of the cozy prison.

Betsy Kline Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 29th July 2001



About the author

Patchett attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she took writing classes with Alan Gurganus, Russell Banks, and Grace Paley. While an undergraduate, she sold her first story to the Paris Review. Patchett then went on to attend the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, and in 1990, she won a residential fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Here she wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, which was awarded a James A. Michner/Copernicus Award for a book in progress.


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2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

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