Ann Patchett has said that she was inspired to write Bel Canto after reading about a real four-month hostage siege that took place in Peru in 1996. What are some of the realistic elements in Bel Canto? What are some fantastical elements in the novel? What effect does Patchett achieve by combining realistic and fantastical elements?

Many novels are set in a confined space—a deserted island, an isolated retreat. Bel Canto is set in a vice president’s mansion. What do you think authors gain by setting their novels in confined spaces? What does Patchett gain?

What is the role of the artist in Bel Canto? What conclusions can we draw about Patchett’s attitude toward artists and their role in society?

Why do you think Patchett ends her novel with an epilogue, rather than a final chapter? How does the epilogue affect your reading of the novel as a whole?

Does the end of the novel satisfy you? Why or why not?