on 3 March 2011
Cuba: what everyone needs to know is a comprehensive summary of key aspects of Cuba's history and politics which should be of interest not only to visitors to the island but also to the casual reader. Julia Sweig is an American academic but her viewpoint is utterly disinterested and she clearly has a profound understanding of her subject. The book is set out in a question and answer format which is very helpful if you are looking for a particular piece of information. The book starts with an introduction to key themes such as the struggle for independence and Cuba's journey to 1959 but goes on to focus mainly on the post-revolutionary period, looking at Cuba's domestic situation, its complex relationship with the US and also at the island's relations with the wider world. The transition from Fidel to Raul Castro is dealt with in depth and the book is up-to-date enough to include information on the dramatic shift in policy between the Bush and Obama administrations. If you have ever wondered how Elian Gonzalez scuppered Al Gore's chance of being US president or who the Cuban Five are (or even if you haven't) this is a book you really shouldn't miss.
on 19 January 2010
A book that is bang up to date, and takes account of Obama's presidency. The format of the book [a "Question and Answer" style] mightn't suit everyone, but certainly makes it easier for students to find their way around some of the key elements of Cuban history and politics. The author's written style is readily digestible, and as an "opener" to further reading and research on Cuba,its a book that I suggest is well worth a read.
on 7 February 2013
If you are buying this expecting a tour guide you've bought the wrong book. If you bought it because you want to learn about Cuba's history in a brief potted overview but with enough detail to make sense, then this is the book for you. It is obvious that Ms. Sweig has done her homework and has created a book that puts across pretty much all the salient facts in a brief but very readable style. Unless you're the sort of tourist that just lazes around on the beach and visits the occasional site, I heartily recommend this book. The Q & A style is brilliant, especially, if like me, you read something, promptly forget it and then want to re-find the relevant fact and learn it again.
on 2 February 2012
This is an excellent primer, providing enough information on the history and politics of Cuba to answer most people's questions, and with a useful bibliography at the back if you want to learn more. It is scrupulously written and completely free of propoganda or bias. My sole criticism is that it is dating slightly, and towards the end it was obvious that reading what the author "assumes" will happen in 2009, 2010 and 2011 is a flaw that could only be rectified by a new edition. I'm happy to see that a new edition is due to be published late in 2012, and I'm greatly looking forward to this.