Thursday, 6 September 2018

Book Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Book: Next Year in Havana 

Author: Chanel Cleeton 

Pages: 394

Read on: Kindle 

Read in: 4-5 hours 

Plot Summary: After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. 

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Things I Liked:
  • I love historical fiction! The juxtaposition of present day events with that of the past is something, which always gets me all excited! So, when I read the premise of this book, I couldn't wait to hit 'Buy Now' on Amazon and get me a copy! Cuba is a country that I found fascinating! A country swept by in a grassroots revolution associated with the legendary Che Guevara, the elite were ousted and many went into exile. I knew the barebones of Cuba's most tumultuous period in the last century and so, getting to read about it in greater detail and, especially, from the perspective of the Cuban elite and the young revolutionaries was very interesting. 
  • Let's get this out of the way first, this is a very, very, very well written book. I got caught up in Elisa Perez's vivid, chaotic world of 1958 and also in Marisol's Cuba of 2017, where there is cautious optimism about the re-building of relations with America and the hope of things getting better. This book was a joy to read. 
  • The book moves effortlessly between Elisa's world in 1958-59 to Marisol's in 2017. We get to see two different Cubas. Two different social realities in the country, which was very interesting to learn about. No one side was right- both were hoping for a middle ground in Cuba, which never came to pass. The collapse of the old world order and the chaos in the country whilst the revolutionaries were trying to create a government is also very well captured. 
  • The characters are very well etched. Every single character is so well etched. I loved getting to know Elisa- her evolution from a debutante to someone, who learnt to understand the realities of her country was very nicely done. Elisa's sister- Beatrice- was so feisty and fabulous! I wish I could've read more about her. Marisol is also a lovely character- she comes to Cuba searching for the magical country of her grandma's memories and her adjustment with the reality of Cuba and her experiences in Havana are so interesting. 
  • Most of all, this book is a beautiful ode to the concept of 'home', especially, if you've been exiled away from it. The angst of the Cuban exiles, their longing for Havana, their annual toast, laced with hope, "Next year in Havana" is so poignant and heartbreaking. As any refugee will tell you, you never get over leaving home- of leaving your country, of its familiar sights and smells and of everything you owned and the people you knew. It is a wound that never heals and the author does a brilliant job of capturing this pain and longing of the exiled Cubans. 
  • There are two pretty nicely done love stories in this book, but I liked the one between Elisa and Pablo so much more. It was much more well developed than the other one (don't want to spoil the book, so not mentioning the second couple!). 

Rating: 5/5
Read this book! Just read this book! 

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