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Archive for the ‘Chanel Cleeton’ Tag

Romance and Politics Cuban Style   Leave a comment

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Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton offers an insightful look into Cuba’s history. The trouble is having to wade through the predictable romance stories it’s centered around. Yes, the plural form of story is intentional.

The first begins in 1959 with the Perez family, whose fortunes were built through several generations on sugar production. Nineteen-year-old Elisa has two older sisters, a much younger sister and a brother who’s been banished from the family for his politics. Elisa is first introduced as the family does its best to leave Cuba. Fidel Castro has just taken over the country and the wealthy are being stripped of their status and riches.

The alternating story, set in 2017, revolves around Marisol, Elisa’s granddaughter, who has been tasked with taking her grandmother’s ashes to be scattered in Cuba. There she discovers there was much about Elisa she didn’t know, including a past love, while also embarking on a romantic relationship of her own.

Elisa’s story recounts her affair with a revolutionary, while Marisol strives to learn more about this part of her grandmother’s life. In the process she is attracted to Luis, the grandson of Elisa’s best childhood friend.

Luis is a history teacher at the university in Havana. He serves not just as a tour guide of Cuba’s, but also its political history. As Luis notes, a lot has changed but not much is different in the island nation.

Cleeton manages a few surprises; otherwise the novel’s strengths lie in the historical references.

Next Year in Havana
Three bookmarks
Berkley. 2018
356 pages, plus Reader’s Guide and an excerpt from Cleeton’s next novel

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