I was in high school when the Japanese embassy hostage crisis, the inspiration for Bel Canto, unfolded in Lima, Peru. It lasted from December 17, 1996 to April 22, 1997. I remember how it was resolved, so I knew going in that this wasn’t likely to end well for anyone. I told myself not to get attached to any of the characters, just in case. I failed.
Despite my determination not to, I slipped into the Stockholm syndrome as unsuspectingly as the characters. One moment I was reading in a suitably detached fashion about child soldiers pointing guns at foreign dignitaries, and the next thing I knew I was super invested in even the tiniest things. (Did Gen Watanabe ever get to eat his slice of cake, or did one of his captors or fellow hostages swipe it while he was being forced to play interpreter/secretary to terrorists? THIS WAS NEVER RESOLVED OMG I AM SO UPSET I CANT EVEN PUNCTUATE WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAKE ANN PATCHETT ASDJGHKASDHKJAH)
The writing is beautiful and sucked me in completely. The story is so, so sad, and I can’t decide if I love or hate the epilogue. So I’m just going to sit over here and eat chocolate and stew in my conflicted feelings for a while.