Notes from an Italian hermitage – despatches from BOLOGNA #3
Five great books set in Ecuador
6th March 2020
Ecuador is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Ecuador.
‘When the treasure chest is open, even the just man sins‘ – Ecuadorian proverb
City on the Ledge by Philip Kraske
Quito, Ecuador. In this obscure Andean capital, ladled along the ledge of a volcano, an eruption is taking place. After centuries of oppression, the workers are on strike against their banana plantation masters. If Ecuador, the largest banana exporter in the world and the bargain basement of the industry, raises its prices, so will the others.
Remarkably, Jay Streets, American pro-football star, is called on to arbitrate and set a final wage for the workers. Having no interest in the matter, he is expected to be impartial The U.S. government, however, with U.S. consumers in mind, would rather that Streets be partial. It has ordered the embassy’s CIA chief to ensure it.
Set against the emerald majesty of the Andes, City on the Ledge witnesses the machinations of politicians, spies, diplomats and lovers as they strive to pull off a revolution – or kill it before it can bloom.
The Amnesia Clinic by James Scudamore
Anti, a quiet English boy living in Quito, Ecuador, strikes up a friendship with flamboyant classmate Fabián, who is everything Anti isn’t: handsome, athletic and popular. What’s more, he lives with his rakish Uncle Suarez, while Anti is stuck in the dull ex-pat world inhabited by his parents.
Suarez, a storyteller par excellence, infects the boys with his passion for outlandish tales, and before long their relationship becomes one conducted entirely through the telling of tales. One subject, however, is taboo: Fabián’s parents. But when details surrounding their disappearance begin to emerge, Anti decides to console his friend with a story suggesting that Fabián’s mother may be living at a bizarre hospital on the coast for patients with memory loss.
With confused emotions and reality losing its tenuous grip, the boys embark on a quixotic voyage across Ecuador in search of an ‘Amnesia Clinic’ that may, or may not exist.
The General in his Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The General in his Labyrinth is the compelling tale of Simón Bolívar, a hero who has been forgotten and whose power is fading, retracing his steps down the Magdalena River (through present day Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador) by the Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.
‘It was the fourth time he had travelled along the Magdalena, and he could not escape the impression that he was retracing the steps of his life’
At the age of forty-six General Simón Bolívar, who drove the Spanish from his lands and became the Liberator of South America, takes himself into exile. He makes a final journey down the Magdalena River, revisiting the cities along its shores, reliving the triumphs, passions and betrayals of his youth. Consumed by the memories of what he has done and what he failed to do, Bolívar hopes to see a way out of the labyrinth in which he has lived all his life. . .
The Gringo: A Memoir by J Grigsby Crawford
Within weeks of arriving as a volunteer in a remote corner of South America, Crawford got a lot more than he bargained for: a narrow escape from a kidnapping plot hatched by the people he was sent there to help. Then things only got stranger.
In his quest to find adventure, Crawford undertook a savage journey of danger, drugs, sex, and alarming illness. What resulted is The Gringo: one part literary tale of two lonely years in the Amazon jungle and one part gonzo-journalism account of life in the Peace Corps, an agency wandering aimlessly through the twenty-first century.
Filled with sharp humour and eye-opening observations about the human condition, this is an unforgettable story that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go.
Pieces of My Life by Rachel Dann
Kirsty is happy. Really, she is. After five years with her boyfriend, Harry, she’s ready to take things to the next step and turn that spare room into a little nursery. And she thought Harry was too.
Only, it turns out that Harry’s ‘big news’ is actually not that he wants to try for a baby, but that he wants to travel to South America – with Kirsty! She’ll just have to trust that after their trip of a lifetime, Harry will be ready to settle down for good.
Arriving in hot, steamy Ecuador it soon becomes clear that Harry is hiding something. Something that he’s been hiding for years. And as Kirsty’s dreams are at risk of shattering, she begins to take things into her own hands. When she starts volunteering at a local women’s prison, only through her desire to help others does she find the strength to pick up the pieces of the life that she’s put off for so long…
Andrew for the TripFiction Team
Have you been to Ecuador? Do you have a favourite read set there? Have we missed an obvious choice? Please let us know in the comments below!
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