September 26, 2009

Take Me Peru

Take Me Away Saturday

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:
Triple Threat
Inuit Culture Egypt
Australian Aborigines
Brazil India
Sierra Leone
Sioux Nation
Spain Japan
Haiti Kenya
Norway Taiwan
Turkey Chile

This week we are visiting the South American country of Peru. Here is an easy to see map of Peru:
For more information on this country, click here.

Click on the titles of the books to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Death in the Andes: A Novel by Mario Vargas Llosa
People have been mysteriously disappearing in the remote mining communities of the Andes, where the inhabitants are more likely to speak the Incan language Quechua than Spanish. Some blame the heavily armed bands of teenage Sendero Luminoso guerrillas that periodically descend on the villages to conduct mock trials and execute "imperialist lackeys." Others blame the equally bloodthirsty government troops. Danish anthropologist Paul Stirmsson suspects that some of the recent victims may have been killed in ritual sacrifices to appease pre-Columbian gods and demons. A witch named Dona Adriana and her husband, Dionisio, whose drunken antics recall the Dionysian revels of Greek antiquity, are the prime suspects. The author (In Praise of the Stepmother, LJ 9/1/90) makes no attempt to assess the Senderistas in political terms. Instead, he offers a sort of Diane Arbus portrait gallery of rural Peru, set in an entertaining detective novel format. Publisher: Picador Pages: 288 Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Supernatural

The Last Days of the Incas by Kim McQuarrie
Starred Review. With vivid and energetic prose, Emmy Award–winner and author MacQuarrie (From the Andes to the Amazon) re-creates the 16th-century struggle for what would become modern-day Peru. The Incas ruled a 2,500–mile-long empire, but Spanish explorers, keen to enrich the crown and spread the Catholic Church, eventually destroyed Inca society. MacQuarrie, who writes with just the right amount of drama ("After the interpreter finished delivering the speech, silence once again gripped the square"), is to be commended for giving a balanced account of those events. This long and stylish book doesn't end with the final 1572 collapse of the Incas. Fast-forwarding to the 20th century, MacQuarrie tells the surprisingly fascinating story of scholars' evolving interpretations of Inca remains. In 1911, a young Yale professor of Latin American history named Hiram Bingham identified Machu Picchu as the nerve center of the empire. Few questioned Bingham's theory until after his death in 1956; in the 1960s Gene Savoy discovered the real Inca center of civilization, Vilcabamba. Although MacQuarrie dedicates just a few chapters to modern research, the archeologists who made the key discoveries emerge as well-developed characters, and the tale of digging up the empire is as riveting as the more familiar history of Spanish conquest. B&w illus., maps. Publisher: Simon & Schuster Pages: 522 Genre: Nonfiction, History, Archaeology, Native Americans

Incas: Book One: The Puma's Shadow by A.B. Daniel
What Gary Jennings did for the Aztecs, Daniel attempts to do for the Incas. Based on the solid storytelling and lean, vivid prose of this first volume of a proposed trilogy (already a bestseller in France and Italy), he's on the right path. The novel's plot juxtaposes the adventures of two outsiders half a world away from each other but destined to meet: in South America the delicate mystic Anamaya, and in Spain the black sheep nobleman Gabriel Montelucar y Flores. Orphaned when the Incas decimated her tribe, Anamaya lands in the court of the Emperor Huayna Capac as a childhood companion to his spoiled daughter, Inti Palla. Anamaya's unique blue-eyed beauty convinces the emperor that she has been divinely sent. She becomes the guardian of the empire and chief confidante of Huayna Capac and later of his successor, the majestic warrior Atahualpa. Gabriel, meanwhile, endures nearly a year of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. His wealthy father pays for his release, then abruptly disowns him. Gabriel joins the nascent quest of adventurer Francisco Pizarro, who's lured by extravagant tales of Inca gold. Disease and in-fighting are just two of the ills plaguing the expedition. The book's spectacular climax is both an ending and a beginning (not since The Magic Mountain have star-crossed soul mates taken so long to get together); the opening chapter of volume two is included as a tease. Daniel's rich historical detail is in perfect proportion to his narrative, always enhancing and never slowing down the action, which is considerable. This is a robust and well-balanced adventure. Publisher: Touchstone Pages: 384 Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Series, Adventure

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
"On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below." With this celebrated sentence, Thornton Wilder begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world. By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper seeks to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His study leads to his own death -- and to the author's timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition. Publisher: HarperCollins Pages: 160 Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Adventure

The Plague of Doves: A Novel by Louise Erdrich
Starred Review. Erdrich's 13th novel, a multigenerational tour de force of sin, redemption, murder and vengeance, finds its roots in the 1911 slaughter of a farming family near Pluto, N.Dak. The family's infant daughter is spared, and a posse forms, incorrectly blames three Indians and lynches them. One, Mooshum Milk, miraculously survives. Over the next century, descendants of both the hanged men and the lynch mob develop relationships that become deeply entangled, and their disparate stories are held together via principal narrator Evelina, Mooshum Milk's granddaughter, who comes of age on an Indian reservation near Pluto in the 1960s and '70s and forms two fateful adolescent crushes: one on bad-boy schoolmate Corwin Peace and one on a nun. Though Evelina doesn't know it, both are descendants of lynch mob members. The plot splinters as Evelina enrolls in college and finds work at a mental asylum; Corwin spirals into a life of crime; and a long-lost violin (its backstory is another beautiful piece of the mosaic) takes on massive significance. Erdrich plays individual narratives off one another, dropping apparently insignificant clues that build to head-slapping revelations as fates intertwine and the person responsible for the 1911 killing is identified. Publisher: Harper Perennial Pages: 352 Genre: Fiction, Family Saga, Native Americans

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
In the rain forests of Peru, an ancient manuscript has been discovered. Within its pages are 9 key insights into life itself — insights each human being is predicted to grasp sequentially; one insight, then another, as we move toward a completely spiritual culture on Earth. Drawing on ancient wisdom, it tells you how to make connections among the events happening in your life right now and lets you see what is going to happen to you in the years to come. The story it tells is a gripping one of adventure and discovery, but it is also a guidebook that has the power to crystallize your perceptions of why you are where you are in life and to direct your steps with a new energy and optimisim as you head into tomorrow. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Pages: 256 Genre: Fiction, Spirituality, Adventure

Lima Nights by Marie Arana
Carlos Bluhm leads the good life in upper-class Lima: he attends social functions with his elegant wife, goes out drinking with his three best friends, has the occasional, fleeting assignation. . . . Until he meets Maria Fernandez, a dancer at a tango bar in a rough part of town. The beautiful sixteen-year-old intoxicates him. An indigenous dark-skinned Peruvian, she represents everything his safe white world does not, and soon he can’t get her out of his mind. They begin a passionate affair, one that will destroy his marriage and shatter the only reality he’s ever known. Flash forward twenty years: against all odds, Carlos and Maria have remained together. But when Maria finally presses for a formal commitment, feelings long suppressed erupt in a tense endgame that sends both of them hurtling toward a dangerous resolution that will forever alter their lives. Brilliantly realized, erotic, unsentimental, Lima Nights is a unique love story and a stunning work of fiction that will reverberate long after its final page. Publisher: Random House Pages: 256 Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary Fiction

Machu Picchu by Barry Brukoff and Pablo Neruda
Machu Picchu, one of those talismanic places that everyone dreams of visiting, is celebrated here in the visually stunning photography of Barry Brukoff that evokes the mystery and spiritual atmosphere of this sacred lost city. Interwoven with the images is Pablo Neruda's epic poem "Heights of Machu Picchu" that has been described as "one of Neruda's greatest poetic works." The book is a bilingual edition: a sparkling new English translation of Neruda's poem by noted translator Stephen Kessler runs side by side with the original Spanish. Publisher: Bulfinch Pages: 128 Genre: Poetry, Photography, Travel

This is not, of course, an exhaustive list. There are many others out there. Do you want to share book recommendations that feature Peru? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up in the next month for Take Me Away Saturday:

October 3: no post this week
October 10: The country of New Zealand (Fiction Edition)
October 17: The country of New Zealand (Nonfiction Edition)
October 24: The country of Russia (Fiction Edition)
October 31: The country of Russia (Nonfiction Edition)

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:

Cultures Visited:
Sioux Culture
Australian Aborigines
Inuit Culture


  1. Hmm, I've actually read The Celestine Prophecy. Interesting book.

  2. I'd love to look through the book about Machu Picchu. Can you just imagine seeing that in person?! Wow!

    I read Bridge of San Luis Rey several years ago and really enjoyed it. When I saw that you were doing Peru, I was watching for it.

    Rebecca, this is a wonderful feature. I like that you provide books along with pictures and a write-up from these places. Such a great resource.

  3. I meant to ask where you found that map. I remember years ago finding a map like that where you could fill in the countries or the states (on the U.S. map). I've lost my link to the site and would love to find my way there again.

  4. I have been obsessed with Peru, Incas and Machu Picchu since I wrote a report on the country in elementary school. Some day I will get to visit there in person. Until then I now have a large list of books to read about it!

  5. Louise Erdrich is from Peru? I thought that she was Native (North) American.

  6. "Stone Offerings, Machu Picchu's Terraces of Enlightenment" is both beautiful and informative.


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