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Cuba Diaries [Paperback]

Isadora Tattlin
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 2003

The face of modern-day Cuba is in many respects still frozen in the 1950s, with its classic American cars, horse-drawn carriages and colonial Spanish architecture. In a country where taxi drivers earn more than doctors, understanding Cuba is a compelling but never-ending task.

In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cuba was plunged into crisis. Having been subsidized by the Soviet Union to the tune of $3 million a day, the country's economy entered freefall. The ban on the US dollar was lifted, the floodgates of tourism opened and the salaries of Cubans in contact with foreigners went into orbit.

Into Castro's fortress of dollar-fuelled hedonism and communist austerity came the American wife of a European energy consultant posted to Havana, and their two small children. Isadora Tattlin befriended Cubans from all walks of life, gave dozens of parties – even Fidel Castro came to dinner! – and kept a daily diary. The result is a remarkable testimony to a unique period in Cuba's history when el triunfo de la revolucion was beginning to clash with the powerful lure of multinational consumerism.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (1 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553815326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553815320
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,041,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'A reputable hostess, she kept an intriguing diary of her parties and guests that included Fidel Castro' -- OK! magazine

'A vivid and unusual perspective...Tattlin's adventures are captivating. Witty and compassionate' -- Waterstone's Books Quarterly

'A work that brings to life a unique country and its people' -- The Good Book Guide

'An inspired record of four years in Fidel Castro’s Cuba…Always striking’ -- NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW

'Fascinating and indelible images of the everyday reality' -- USA TODAY

'[Like] a good Havana cigar... this journal... is the real thing, packed with flavour, rounded, full and smouldering' -- The Daily Telegraph

‘Sharp and sassy…telling and incisive’ -- LOS ANGELES TIMES

Book Description

A unique and revelatory first-hand account of life in post-Cold War Cuba.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cuba 9 Aug 2003
By A Customer
If you're hoping for insight into Cuba and its history/politics, then this book will disappoint you. It touches only very briefly and vaguely on these issues, and is instead much more of a personal diary.
Although parts of it are interesting, and it can be eye-opening in places, it is too light-hearted and shallow to be as informative as I'd hoped. It makes for pleasant reading but you're not going to learn as much about Castro's Cuba as is suggested.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pompous and Infuriating 17 July 2004
By A Customer
I read 1/4 of this book before becoming too disgusted to waste my time going any further. It's the diary of a spoiled, arrogant, ignorant housewife who enjoys name-dropping (zzzzzz) and shows little compassion for Cuban people and their struggles.
I could not believe I wasted my time learning about how this pathetic woman had nothing better to do with her time than worry about whether or not one of her six "hired help" stole some toilet paper from her home. Or become annoyed when a school asks her for detergent to help ensure the school is sanitary. This -- during a time when Cubans are starving in the streets.
Her child gets a rash from swimming, so she builds a $40,000 pool in her backyard. Yet she has absolutely no class or self respect when it comes to respecting the government's policy that health care is free for Cubans -- but wealthy foreigners should pay. This pathetic woman has no qualms about weaseling in on "Cuban days" to see a pediatrician for free, and then complains at how disgusted the doctors are when they see her.
I'm going to try to return this book from the store I bought it at. I can't believe a publisher actually paid to print this idiotic book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Same Old Story 27 July 2003
I love everything about Cuba and wanted to see a different perspective on life out there but this wasn't the interesting book that I thought it would be.
Isabella's story is the story that I've heard about life on the Island too many times. An outsider's view of life on one of the most enigmatic countries on the planet yet it made me upset and tired of rich Americans and Europeans who use Cuba as a playground for their own lifestyles.
This is certainly not the book for me. I prefer a more heartfelt look a the country so I will be steering clear of these types of travel writing books
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More of a mirror than an insight into Cuba 22 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Cuba Diaries does not give any useful insight into the politics or history of the island, but that wasn't what the book was meant to be. It's an insight into how wealthy ex pats live amidst grinding poverty and hardship, with a few snippets of gossip added in. Reading the narrative, it became very apparent to me that relations between Tattlin's family and Cubans, especially those in their employment, are hugely distorted by inequality of income and status. Judging from the book, Tattlin's family were fair employers, but I've heard some horror stories from Cuban maids, cooks and gardeners about the authoritarian tactics of ex pat employers.
I lived in Cuba for six years (certainly not as a wealthy ex pat). My own account of what life was like for me ("Living Inside the Revolution - An Irish woman in Cuba") is an attempt to be honest about what the Revolution means in terms of ordinary people's experiences. I believe that it may be the closest any non Cuban writer has come to a written account of the daily challenges faced by contemporary Cubans.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a real eye-opener 14 May 2003
By A Customer
This is a wonderfully rich and absorbing illustration of the everyday life of a North American woman living with her husband and two children in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Although the introduction and epilogue of the book give the political and economic background which frames the story that Tattlin tells, the power and fascination of her ‘dairies’ comes from the description of the mundane events and ordinary interaction of the people who surround her. Tattlin takes us through the change in life-style that herself and her family experience moving from an (unnamed for security reasons) European country to Havana, beginning on the first few pages with an enormous shopping list of first-world necessities to be shipped to their new home; 64 gallons of fabric softener, 672 rolls of toilet paper, 2400 feet of aluminium foil, 1200 bottles of wine, etc. The trials and tribulations of learning how to shop in Cuba and some of the diverse and obscure methods of acquiring even basic food and fundamental provisions are treated with frankness and often a good deal of humour.
I found the relationships between people of different backgrounds, colours and status, one of the most interesting aspects of this study of Cuban social culture. Tattlin depicts a country in which people of many difference races and different skin colours live and work together. She explains the means by which people relate and refer to each other, and understands that although the western-world’s fashion for being “politically-correct” may cause some to deem Cuban terms and judgements racist, they are for them merely practical and descriptive. This book, in this way and many others, will widen the horizons of those readers comfortable with the values and scope of life in the west.
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