Here we go again, Brilliant Book Wins Orange Prize, Devon Bookaholic Misses it Completely.
To this day I can't imagine how I have missed reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.
Where was I?
What was I doing in 2002 ?
I've just turned the final page in Ann Patchett's latest novel, Run published by Bloomsbury, and will be quickly seeking out Bel Canto and four other novels as well, treats in store I hope.
Run is set in snowy Boston and as widower and ex-Mayor Bernard Doidge and his adopted sons Tip and Teddy leave a political rally and walk out into a blizzard, Tip's life is saved when an apparent stranger pushes him out of the path of an oncoming car and falls under the wheels herself. Tennessee Moser is seriously injured but her young daughter Kenya mysteriously seems to know all there is to know about Family Doidge and Tip and Teddy in particular.
I've given the barest bones of plot and even if you think you've guessed a bit from that, think again, Ann Patchett makes it very tricky to second-guess.
What happens next and ever thereafter kept me riveted to the pages of this book as Ann Patchett reveals gentle plot twists and turns that make up the lives of these families and one revelation that I definitely didn't see coming. When it happens Ann Patchett draws you into the most amazing few pages of reading as the truth slowly dawns, incomparable writing of the highest quality.
There's something confident and warm about Run, as Ann Patchett explores so much around her very simple title. Just about every character beautifully and carefully drawn, is knowingly or unknowingly on the run from some event or occurence in their lives with the young Kenya doing the opposite and running towards her ultimate goal. Often those events are merely touched on very briefly, glanced at a tangent and then left alone and that suggests to me the skill of a writer who has the confidence to leave it at that and let me decide on the hidden impact for myself.
There are several moments of undeniable sadness too, but Ann Patchett refuses to dwell on those either, I knew they'd happened and in a way that's all I needed to know. From the blurb
'...a moving story about overlapping lives, our fragile hopes and fears for our children, and the lengths to which we'll go to protect our families.'
I often take issue with blurbs, except I'm taking issue slightly less now that several extracts from this blog are being used on forthcoming titles. I'm now acutely aware that you can extract words from a sentence and make it mean something else entirely but when Penelope Lively says of Bel Canto
'...is a tour de force. Gripping and absorbing...I couldn't stop reading.'
Then I know I have to read it soon.