In December we will be reading three selections that fit the theme “Taken Hostage”: Bel Canto by, Ann Patchett, Rescuing Patty Hearst by, Virginia Holman, and Kidnapped by, Robert Louis Stevenson.
Bel Canto by, Ann Patchett
In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.
Among the hostages are not only Hosokawa and Roxane Coss, the American soprano, but an assortment of Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Reuben Iglesias, the diminutive and gracious vice president, quickly gets sideways of the kidnappers, who have no interest in him whatsoever. Meanwhile, a Swiss Red Cross negotiator named Joachim Messner is roped into service while vacationing. He comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands, and the days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months.
With the omniscience of magic realism, Ann Patchett flits in and out of the hearts and psyches of hostage and terrorist alike, and in doing so reveals a profound, shared humanity.
Rescuing Patty Hearst by, Virginia Holman
A year after the Patty Hearst kidnapping and the Watergate scandal, a woman suffering from schizophrenia kidnapped her two young daughters and moved them to a remote part of Virginia. One of those daughters, Virginia Holman, describes what it was like to live for four years with a mother who believed she had been inducted into a secret army.
Kidnapped by, Robert Louis Stevenson
Set against the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, the gripping drama of Kidnapped—originally published in 1886—takes readers to the danger and intrigue of a Scotland sundered by revolution. The story is told by David Balfour, a young Whig and Lowlander whose odyssey is a microcosm of the struggles besetting his country. Tricked by a miserly uncle, he survives attempted murder, kidnap, and shipwreck, only to escape through the Highlands in the company of Alan Breck—a Jacobite adamantly opposed to Whigs like Balfour. Running for their lives, the two fugitives must rely on each other even as the ancient misunderstandings between them force tensions to the breaking point. A riveting page-turner and work of social commentary, Kidnapped is one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s greatest works.
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Reminder: We usually choose 2-3 books per month. You're welcome at our meeting whether you read all or none of the books. We read fiction, nonfiction, and plays, and usually try to cover 1 piece of classic literature monthly. We read books reviewed or mentioned on NPR, and try to mirror NPR's tone at our meetings: thoughtful, polite discussion & commentary, with no arguing or posturing, and no sacred cows or unmentioned elephants in the room.
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