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Five great books set in BRAZIL

27th July 2019

Brazil is the latest destination in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Brazil.

I was not encouraged to follow the career of a writer because my parents thought that I was going to starve to death. They thought nobody can make a living from being a writer in Brazil. They were not wrong‘ – Paulo Coelho

Five great books set in BRAZIL

Here are five books that will take you to this exotic, rhythmic South American country, whether you’re travelling to Brazil, or just want to be transported there from the comfort of your special reading place at home.

City of Brick and Shadow by Tim Wirkus

Already struggling to keep their tiny congregation afloat, two Mormon missionaries stationed in the dangerous Latin American neighborhood of Vila Barbosa suspect the worst when Marco Aurelio, a man they recently baptised, disappears from a crowded street market. When the neighborhood’s corrupt police force shows no interest, Elder Toronto and Elder Schwartz decide to investigate Marco Aurelio’s disappearance themselves.

Breaking mission rule after mission rule, the elders doggedly pursue any clues that might lead them to their friend. As they interview the people who knew him – his short-tempered, bodybuilding brother; his gun-toting ex-wife; his mercurial former business partner –a tangled portrait emerges of an enigmatic con artist in over his head.

At the edges of the investigation lurks a shadowy, mythical figure known only as the Argentine, a man who poses an increasingly dire threat to the two young missionaries as they plunge recklessly forward.

Heliopolis by James Scudamore

Set against a city on the edge of reality, of high towers and seething favelas, of rich enclaves and social stratification.

Ludo is a boy taken from the slum of Heliopolis and raised in the gated wealth of Angel Park. Highly credible characters locked in often extreme situations.

By turns darkly humorous and poignant, Scudamore’s Booker Prize-nominated novel is a highly original take on the rags-to-riches story.

The Book of Rio by Katie Slade & Toni Marques

It’s the city the rest of the world descends on to party…. whether for the spectacular annual Carnival, the sun-kissed beaches, the World Cup, or, in 2016, the Olympics. It’s also a place that’s sadly become synonymous with some of the excesses of partying, the dark underbelly that accompanies any urban hedonist’s destination. But these are just two images of Rio. There are countless others: opulent seat of two former empires; stronghold of brutal, twentieth-century dictatorships; sprawling metropolis stretched between stunning mountain tops and equally stunning economic extremes – from the affluence of neighbourhoods like Leblon and Ipanema, to the overcrowded slums in the foothills, the favelas.

This anthology brings together ten short stories that go beyond the postcards and snapshots, and introduce us to real residents of Rio – the cariocas: young hopefuls training to be the next stars of samba, exhausted labourers press-ganged into meeting an impossible construction deadline (the nation’s pride being at stake), bored call-girls, nostalgic drag queens, married couples having petty middle-class domestics….

These are characters who’ve developed a deep understanding of Rio’s contradictions, a way of living with the grey areas – between the grime and the glitz – that make Rio the ‘marvellous city’ it is.

A Death in Brazil by Peter Robb

This book comes in three tranches – Robb’s personal experience in Brazil which is certainly a rollercoaster experience at times but he also explores culture, food and language. The second is the history of Brazil from its Portuguese colonisation (and helpfully he includes his thoughts on why Brazil is so culturally different from the other Spanish colonies) and finally its recent history.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

There were people on the banks of the river. Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery: she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest. What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Which titles would you add to the list? Remember there are more than 40 to choose from in the Brazil listings on TripFiction…! Each will transport you to some excellent fiction, travelogues or memoirs set in this intriguing country. Or you may have your own favourites you would like to add. Please leave your thoughts in the Comments box below.

Other posts in our ‘Ten/five great books set in…’ series that might interest you, and look out for more ‘great books‘ posts set in other Latin American countries:

Five great books set in Chile 

Five great books set in Argentina 

Five great books set in Colombia 

Five great books set in Peru 

Five great books set in Mexico

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