Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Next Year in Havana

Author: Chanel Cleeton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Publisher: Berkley
First Published: February 6, 2018
First Line: "Elisa - Havana, 1959: "How long will we be gone?" my sister Maria asks."

Book Description from GoodReadsAfter 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.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

DisclaimerThis digital ARC was generously provided to me by Penguin Random House Canada via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

My ReviewNext Year in Havana follows the lives of two women – Elisa Perez, a nineteen-year-old Cuban debutante in the 1950’s and Marisol Ferrera, her American granddaughter who, decades later, travels to Cuba for the first time to fulfill Elisa’s dying wish.

The author draws from her own family’s experiences as Cuban expatriates (her own family fled Cuba in 1967) and her deep connection with Cuba is evident by her vivid descriptions of settings, culture, Cuba’s turbulent history and its people. The story is told with dual timelines and while both story lines have romantic elements, it was the political uncertainty and strength of the Cuban people that made the biggest impression on me. I found the romantic side of things sweet but less compelling (mainly due to a mild case of Insta-Love).

The descriptions of life in Cuba in both eras will be eye-opening for many readers. The actions of Batista and Castro were violent and merciless, and life was often harsh for Cubans - which included regular food shortages, strict governmental control and violent retribution for those who didn't follow the rules. Readers will also see that life continues to be a struggle for many Cubans today. There is a shocking dichotomy between the Cuba that tourists experience and daily life for Cuban citizens and I appreciate that this issue was addressed in this book. 

Next Year in Havana is an impressive debut and a beautiful tribute to Cuba. Cleeton has blended historical facts within a compelling fictional story that is both atmospheric and evocative. This sweeping sage will engage readers with Cuban history, romance and a touch of suspense as it deals with issues of identity, family and sacrifice making it a perfect choice for fans of Historical Fiction.

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