January Book Review and Thoughts on Excellence

First book finished! I read Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, recommended by Bethany. I have a question for all you ladies that are in book clubs: what do you talk about exactly?  I mean, do you really talk about the book?  Like, what you thought about it?  I’m curious, because I’m really struggling with what to write here.

A brief plot summary: A fancy dinner party, full of powerful people, gets hijacked by a band of underprivileged jungle kids.  They spend the next few months together exploring their roles as kidnappers and hostages.  And one of the powerful people happened to be a world-famous opera singer.

My review: A beautiful and fascinating story.  Interestingly, the author spoils the story’s outcome right at the beginning, but that made it even more mesmerizing.  The whole book is set basically in one room, and so there’s a lot of exploration of how each person handles the situation.  And then there’s a surprise plot twist right at the end.  I’m not sure it quite fits with the rest.  Maybe I need someone to explain it to me.

Another theme that runs through most of the characters is excellence.  Lately I’m fascinated by people who are experts, even fictional ones as these were.  Bel canto was full of them.  Of course there’s the opera singer, as well as a piano player, a chess whiz, a chef, a language translator.

I am naturally more of a “breadth” person, rather than a “depth” person… i.e. I try to do lots of different things, but not necessarily all that well.  I want to change this a bit though.  And that’s why I’ve got a new item on the list:

26. Learn to play “Wagon Wheel” on the banjo. and play it well… all the way through… no stopping.  Must sound like its supposed to.

Did you know I “play” the banjo?  Not very well.  I never practice.  But that will have to change or else I won’t be able to scratch this one off the list.  So that will be a small step toward excellence.  Granted, I won’t be a banjo expert at the end, but it will require perseverance and sticking with it even when it gets hard or boring.  I think that’s a good first step.

And then Bethany and I can give y’all a concert of our respective musical accomplishments in August.  j/k.  I don’t know for sure but I bet Bethany’s Bach piece is.. in a different… stratosphere.  Speaking of excellence, there ya go.  Girl’s been playing that fiddle since she was 3 or something.

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About Mary-Hall

loyal southerner, exceedingly frugal, compulsive DIYer
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