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Five great books set in CHILE

20th July 2019

Chile is the latest country for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Chile.

I’ve been fascinated by Chile ever since I watched the 1982 film ‘Missing‘, about an American writer who disappears during the infamous coup of 1973.  And, more recently, I’ve been inspired by a beautiful cinematic trip to Chile with poet and national hero Pablo Neruda.

He who does not know the Chilean forests, does not know the planet‘ – Pablo Neruda

Here are 5 fascinating and very different books set in Chile which we hope you’ll enjoy:

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

A magnificent sweeping tale from the international bestselling author of ‘The House of the Spirits’.

Set in Anglophile Chile and goldrush California during the middle years of the nineteenth century, this magnificent romance tells the story of English foundling Eliza Sommers who grows up in the bustling entrepot of Valparaiso. Eliza is a spirited, sparky and ambitious romantic who becomes embroiled in a forbidden love affair with the charismatic but capricious Joaquin Andieta. When he disappears suddenly for California, and the promise of riches that rumours of gold strikes have brought him, she can but follow after him…

Swedish Tango by Alyson Richman

Octavio Ribeiro is a rising movie star in Chile when, at the request of famed poet Pablo Neruda, he agrees to serve as a media trainer in the presidential campaign of Salvador Allende. This involvement exposes Octavio and his family — especially his wife, Salomé — to the ruthless kidnapping and terror tactics of Allende’s political rival, General Augusto Pinochet…until they escape to political exile in Sweden, where another couple — Samuel and Kaija Rudin — are also living as expatriates.

Dr. Rudin is a psychiatrist specializing in treating people who, like Salomé, have been traumatized by the events of war and upheaval. As the Rudins and Ribeiros dance with destiny, each family must confront the secrets they have kept from one another — and face the personal consequences of their political choices. Rich with historical detail, and written in shimmering prose, Swedish Tango is an epic tale of two cultures that no reader will soon forget.

Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra

Growing up in 1980s Chile, a young boy plays hide and seek in the suburbs of Santiago with his friends while the adults become slowly entangled in the brutality of Pinochet’s regime – accomplices and victims of the brutal dictatorship. As the country shudders under authoritarian rule, the boy creates stories of his own to explain the sporadic scenes of violence, the disappearances, and the deafening silence of his mother and father. Until, on the night of the Santiago earthquake, a mysterious girl named Claudia appears among the children and the boy’s world is changed forever. Now, as a young man reflecting on the tragedies of his childhood, he must find the courage to confront as an adult what he could not have known as a child, and to untangle Chile’s troubled past. As he struggles to begin a novel which will encompass the clash between innocence and complicity, the boundaries between fiction and reality blur and the beautiful Claudia comes back into his life.

Dark Echoes of the Past by Ramon Eterovic

Private investigator Heredia spends his days reading detective novels; commiserating with his cat, Simenon; and peering out over the Mapocho River from his Santiago apartment. The city he loves may be changing, but Heredia can’t stop chasing the ghosts of the past. This time, they’ve come to him…

Virginia Reyes’s brother, an ex–political prisoner of dictator Augusto Pinochet, was killed in an apparent robbery. Yet nothing of value was taken. The police have declared the case closed, but Virginia suspects that things aren’t quite as they appear and turns to Heredia for help. Heredia couldn’t agree more—but he can’t shake the feeling that there’s something Virginia’s not telling him.

Heredia knows this is not a simple crime. His investigation proves it. Drawn back into a world where murderers nest, secrets are to kill and die for, and Pinochet’s legacy still casts a long, dark, and very threatening shadow, it’s all Heredia can do to crawl out of it alive.

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolaño

As through a crack in the wall, By Night in Chile’s single night-long rant provides a terrifying, clandestine view of the strange bedfellows of Church and State in Chile. This wild, eerily compact novel-Roberto Bolano’s first work available in English-recounts the tale of a poor boy who wanted to be a poet, but ends up a half-hearted Jesuit priest and a conservative literary critic, a sort of lap dog to the rich and powerful cultural elite, in whose villas he encounters Pablo Neruda and Ernst Junger.

Father Urrutia is offered a tour of Europe by agents of Opus Dei (to study “the disintegration of the churches,” a journey into realms of the surreal): and ensnared by this plum, he is next assigned-after the destruction of Allende-the secret, never-to-be-disclosed job of teaching Pinochet, at night, all about Marxism, so the junta generals can know their enemy. Soon, searingly, his memories go from bad to worse.

Heart-stopping and hypnotic, By Night in Chile marks the American debut of an astonishing writer.

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Which titles would you add to the list? Remember to check out the TripFiction listings for more books set in Chile and around the world. Each will transport you to some excellent fiction, travelogues or memoirs. 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:

Five great books set in Argentina

Five great books set in Peru

Five great books set in Mexico

Five great books set in San Francisco

Five great books set in California

Ten great books set in New York

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