Ann Pratchett’s Bel Canto (2001)
Pratchett’s PEN/Faulkner-award winning book is a multi-character saga, loosely-based on events that transpired in 1990s Peru. The book starts at a birthday party for a business executive in an unnamed South American country, where opera star Roxane is hired to perform. The plans for the evening come to an abrupt end, though, when terrorists interrupt and take everyone hostage. What follows is a psychological examination of the different characters’ reactions to their situation, both the hostages and the hostage-takers.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (2004)
If you’re anything like me, when you think of Arthur Conan Doyle, you think of Sherlock Holmes. I vaguely knew that Doyle had written other work–mainly because I knew it made him angry that everyone always greeted his other writings with “When are you writing the next Holmes story?” and he took his resulting anger out on poor Sherlock. Imagine my surprise when I was researching this article and discovered that Doyle’s 1912 The Lost World is widely considered an early science fiction adventure classic. Follow a band of British explorers deep into the Amazon’s basin, where they discover dinosaurs and other creatures long believed extinct.
Laura Resau’s and Maria Virginia Farinango’s The Queen of Water (2011)
This YA novel highlights social conditions in Ecuador, particularly the harsh reality of life for the indigenous community. The protagonist, Virginia, becomes a servant for a wealthy couple at the age of seven, a move that isolates her from her native culture and also binds her to the couple as a virtual slave. Nevertheless, this story–based on co-author Farinango’s childhood–is ultimately triumphant as Virginia finds her own way out of this life.