Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Book Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Book: When We Left Cuba

Author: Chanel Cleeton

Pages: 346

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 4 hours

Plot Summary: The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez--her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future--but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything--not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart.

General Thoughts: Last year, I read and loved Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. Here's the review, if you are interested in reading it. It was, truly, one of the best books of 2018 for me! If you read the review, you will see that I mention that I would've loved to know more about the protagonist (Marisol's) great aunt- Beatriz Perez, a woman with an interesting past and life. So, obviously, when I saw that this book is based on Beatriz, I simply had to pick it up! After all, I love historical fiction and I was already in love with the world of characters created by Cleeton in her debut novel. So, what's not to love, right? 

Things I Liked: 

1. I liked Beatriz. She is intense, determined, loyal, gutsy and stubborn. She wants to kill Fidel Castro as she believes that he was the one, who ordered to have her twin brother- Alejandro- killed at the end of the Cuban Revolution. She is consumed by the need for revenge. She is 22 and her whole focus is on how she is going to kill Castro and avenge her twin's death. 

2. I like the setting of the Cold War era in America. Those were interesting times, for sure, and the author does a good job of bringing alive the tumult and uncertainty of the days leading to and during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

3. Like the first book, I liked how evocatively the author brought to life the world of the exile Cuban families, especially, that of the Perez family. We see how they are trying to adjust to their changed circumstances in Florida and are doing what they can to move on with their lives. Also, what I found interesting is that as each year went by, they kept hoping that they'd be able to move back to Cuba at some point, but, of course, that never happened. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. Oh boy! Where do I start?! I had such high expectations from this book because of how good Next Year in Havana was! Plus, I really liked what little we saw of Beatriz in that book and so, getting to know more about her eventful and unconventional life was something I was really looking forward to! However, this book was such a massive letdown in that regard! The book has very little about Beatriz as a spy actually doing espionage-related activities. There is a lot of time spent on her meetings with a CIA operative, where she keeps asking him to send her to Cuba, so she can kill Castro and he keeps telling her that she needs to do smaller things before something that big! Apart from that, we repeatedly get to see Beatriz's relationship with her "powerful American lover", which, after the first two times is just repetitive and dull! 

2. The author has not bothered investing in showing Beatriz's life as a spy or even her starting Law School. Instead, we get a very lame encounter between her and Castro, where, spoiler but no spoiler, she does not end up killing him! I was really annoyed to read a whole lot of nothing about such an interesting, unconventional character like her! In hindsight, Next Year in Havana had a lot more interesting anecdotes about Beatriz than this whole novel dedicated to her! 

3. The author spends a lot of chapters on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Look, maybe a lot of people don't know what happened and what went down and how it was resolved, but I, honestly, did not need multiple chapters on it! Similar sentiment about the Bay of Pigs Invasion. She should've followed the balance of her first book in terms of historical context and personal journeys of the characters. This book was just skewed and felt very rushed- like her editor told her that, "Look, you're hot right now, write another book super quick!" 

Rating: 2.5/5 

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