Historical Musings #32: Exploring South America

While I was reading The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I have read very few books set in South America, historical or otherwise. The Bedlam Stacks involves a mission to 1860s Peru in search of quinine and is the only book about Peru I can remember reading. And it’s not just Peru, because Ecuador, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and all the other countries that make up South America have also featured rarely or not at all in my reading.

A quick search of the historical fiction reviews on my blog brings up only one result: The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley, which tells the story of a young woman who lived in Rio de Janeiro during the 1920s and played a part in the creation of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Expanding the search to include reviews of any genre, I also found Little Black Lies, a crime novel by Sharon Bolton set in the Falkland Islands, and Three Singles to Adventure, Gerald Durrell’s account of an animal-collecting expedition to Guyana. And that’s all. I can’t think of many examples from my pre-blogging days either, so clearly there’s a big gap in my reading that needs to be filled!

Do you have any good books to recommend that are set in South America? For the purposes of this post I would particularly like to hear about historical fiction or non-fiction – anything that will help me to understand the histories of these countries – but contemporary suggestions are welcome too.


Added to my historical fiction shelves since last month’s post:

* The Queen’s Mary by Sarah Gristwood
* Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
* The Marsh King’s Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick
* Voice of the Falconer by David Blixt
* The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw
* Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
* Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon
* The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today by Alison Weir

Have you added any new historical fiction to your TBR recently?

18 thoughts on “Historical Musings #32: Exploring South America

  1. Calmgrove says:

    Charles Darwin’s ‘Voyage of the Beagle’? 19C non-fiction Eva Ibbotson’s ‘Journey to the River Sea’? YA fiction set on the Amazon. Anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

    • Helen says:

      I hadn’t thought of Charles Darwin, but I’m sure Voyage of the Beagle must be a fascinating read. And I have read several of Eva Ibbotson’s books but not Journey to the River Sea, so thank you for that suggestion too.

  2. Carmen says:

    House of Spirits, City of Beasts (it’s a series but I have only read this one), and Eva Luna, all three by Isabel Allende, The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier (about the Haitian Revolution; I don’t know if you can find it in English but it’s worth the search); A Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicles of A Death Foretold, Of Love and Other Demons (those three by Gabriel Garcia Marquez). Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan.

  3. Lark says:

    I’ve heard good things about Perla by Carolina de Robertis which is set in Argentina, but I’ve never read it. It is on my tbr list, though. 🙂 If you find any good historical fiction reads set in Ecuador or Brazil or Peru please post about them. I’d like to read more books set in those countries, too!

  4. aparatchick says:

    I’ll join the others in recommending Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude are my favorites. Isabel Allende’s The House of Spirits, Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, and Jorge Amado’s Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands are a few others I’d recommend.

    • Helen says:

      I think I definitely need to try something by Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Thanks for the other suggestions too – I had heard of State of Wonder but not the other book you mention.

  5. Margaret says:

    This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson is about Capt Fitzroy and Charles Darwin’s voyages in the HMS Beagle to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Another book by Isabel Allende is Portrait in Sepia set in Chile.

  6. jessicabookworm says:

    Like you I have read very little set in or about South America, however I did enjoy the historical fiction A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson about a ballet company that goes on a tour of South America. As for new historical fiction, I recently received a copy of Caligula by Simon Turney 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Thank you, Jessica. I love Eva Ibbotson but haven’t read A Company of Swans yet and didn’t know it was set in South America. I hope you enjoy Caligula. I’ll be interested to hear more about it.

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