Whether you are a soccer fan or not, it’s going to be hard to avoid hearing about Brazil in the coming weeks. And if we can’t beat them, then we may just have to join them. Even if you are not immersing yourself in World Cup watching, why not take yourself off to the land of the Amazon in your own way, by picking up a novel which will bring this exciting country to life?
I’ve given the Brazil shelf a bit of a spruce up over at the Packabook store and picked out a few highlights to tempt you.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Voted Amazon’s (the online bookstore, not the jungle!) best book of the month in June 2011, this novel takes us deep into the rainforest where pharmaceutical researcher Marina Singh is searching for details of a recently-deceased colleague as well as checking on the progress of another scientist, who is conducting drug development research in the jungle.
As one Amazon reviewer says “One can almost feel hear the buzzing and ravenous mosquitoes, feel the oppressive heat, recoil from the floating snake heads, and feel the power of the storms” as we are taken into the murky world of drug research and exploitation of the natural world.
Spilt Milk by Chico Buarque
Oh, I love a good multi-generational family story which reveals a country’s history, and here’s one for Brazil. An old man lies dying, and through his memories we sweep through 20th century history and the downfall of his aristocratic family. Slavery, assassination, romance – this book has it all.
“A beautifully written, gripping tale. The characters are fascinating. The English language never was served better. Literature at its best, ” says one Amazon reviewer, though another says “Overall left me emotionally unaffected and was not riveted to see what was going to occur next”. So I guess you will need to make your own mind up!
The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles
Two sisters, both talented seamstresses, are separated in 1930s Brazil; one living a life of unhappy wealth, the other becoming a renowned bandit. Taking us to the violence of the badlands in north-eastern Brazil, this novel reveals much about the economic hardship of life at the time.
And the word from an Amazon reader? “Very intelligently written, and gripping! Graphic, but I feel necessary. It will remain in your memory for a long time, after reading!”
These are all fairly recent novels, but there are of course some classics of Brazilian fiction on the shelf like the Jorge Amado novels Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands and The Violent Land, as well as City of God by Paulo Lins.
And if you are looking for a detective series to get you through the entire World Cup, then let me introduce you to Inspector Espinosa, a Rio-based investigator who’d rather be reading books than out on the streets. As detective novels go, readers say the Espinosa series (of which there are eight books so far) are a bit of a cut above the rest, with lots of social commentary and strong, intelligent female characters. What’s not to love?
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