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Last Dance in Havana: Escape to Cuba with the perfect holiday read! Kindle Edition
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I loved the sultry sensuous feeling of being in Havana so much that reading about it makes me want to go there. A fascinating story with engaging themes. Dinah Jefferies, #1 bestselling author of The Tea Planter's Wife
An impeccably researched and deftly written narrative that kept me hooked until the end. Kathryn Hughes, bestselling author of The Letter
- Publisher : Quercus; UK ed. Edition (19 May 2016)
- File Size : 2649 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B015JG064O
- Print Length : 378 pages
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: 129,405 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer reviews:
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Last Dance in Havana is an exotic tale of love and friendship set between Cuba in the 1950's and Bristol, England in 2012. Not many people would have had an opportunity to visit Cuba considering its turbulent history and closed doors until recently to the wider world except for the chosen few. But now the island is becoming more open to tourists and though the chance of me ever visiting the country is highly unlikely through reading this story I felt the vibrancy, colour and magic of Cuba radiate from the pages. It made for a riveting summer read or really perfect for any time of year.
The book opens in Havana in 1957, Elisa is only 15 but taken by her cousin for a night out where she witnesses the beautiful and sensual rumba in action 'It seemed to exude something, she couldn't quite understand and,a sensuality that was as yet unknown'. Elisa becomes absorbed in her surroundings, the music and the mass of swaying bodies around her. She turns and catches the eye of the most magnificent man she has ever seen - Duardo. He is a man of confidence and with strong African features. I mention African because this is significant later on in the story and Elisa's heritage is Spanish. Immediately there was heat, electricity, passion and an intense connection between the couple and you knew this pair had eyes only for each other disregarding the world and the situation ongoing in Cuba as if they only existed in their own special, unique corner of the island.
Years later the author takes us to Bristol, it's 2012 and Grace is working as a masseuse and is intrigued by the power of touch and it's healing abilities to create physical harmony between body and mind. Grace is at a crossroads in her life. We are witness to her battles both internally and externally. Past events are blighting the present and in a way her future 'You couldn't simply take hold of a clean duster and wipe away the past. Once something had happened, it had happened'. Grace is becoming more and more estranged from her father Philip who has taken to alcohol as a dependent in a big way. He is haunted by a significant event in the past the same event that Grace is battling to come to terms with. Grace's preconceptions are forcing her to view people in a different light. She is rash and makes judgements without the full facts and harbours deep resentment towards people without ever actively seeking the truth. If Grace had not been as closed she could have sought the truth far earlier and saved heartbreak and pain but there is a stubborn streak to her and that is what prevents her reaching out to her father. The same streak allows her to go to a side many people view as wrong but there had to have been a deep longing in her for something else she had to have known in her heart that she wasn't happy but was playing too close to home the right thing to do? Grace is married to Robbie who seems nice enough but he wants more from the relationship and babies are on his agenda but not at all on Grace's list. Whether Grace was pushed or voluntarily took the plunge in playing with fire it is for the reader to decide and also as the story progresses, does what happen become right and your opinion begin to change? Caught in the middle between Grace and her father is her stepmother Elisa who we met in the prologue. We learn how she came to live in England but how her heart is still firmly rooted in Cuba. Just what has she been through and what has become of Duardo. Elisa was such an endearing character and my favourite in the book, we gain a deep insight into how she is feeling as we are taken back to events in the 1950's in Havana. She has been through such heartbreak and devastation but secretly underneath it all your fingers are crossed that there is a more positive outlook in store for her.
The author merged the scenes set in England perfectly with those set in Havana and the countryside of Cuba. In England things seemed tense and to slightly spiral out of control but the calmness and beauty of Cuba despite all the island and its inhabitants have endured shines through and provides the light this book needed. The sections based in Cuba were placed perfectly and offered great contrast and shade between events ongoing in Bristol. Things slowly began to make sense as we hear from characters living in Havana in 2012 and the actions of people although I can't justify them were given solid reasons. My eyes were opened wide to the history of the island and it's connection to Bristol. I had no idea about plantations and the connotations surrounding them but these aspects was expertly weaved into the story. The reader slowly comes to understand that one should grab every opportunity that comes your way be it in love or any other matter in life.But also that love can be all encompassing and never forgotten .It will remain with you and affect you for a long time, that it is worth fighting for despite the odds stacked against you. Keep trying and do not allow deceit and obstacles get in your way.I had hoped that both Grace and Elisa would take this advice as finally find what they had been searching for whether they knew it or not.
Robbie seemed to be like a dog with a bone, he pushes and persists regarding the baby issue. Why can't he see that Grace is just not that interested, it's a facet to her life that she wants to remain firmly closed. It's clear the couple were having problems regardless of this issue and maybe they weren't destined to stay together forever but I do think it was one strand in a multitude of factors that pushed Grace into doing something that many would view as being completely unacceptable. Combined with Grace's strained relationship with her father Grace must have felt trapped and that special (in her mind) someone must have provided that sense of release that she needed whether she realised it or not. Whether you approve of the actions of Grace or not you can see she is tormented inside. The past and all its unanswered questions and misunderstandings has such a forceful impact on her thought and decision making process in the present. I was completely torn in two as to whether I actually like Grace. I couldn't identify completely with her but on other levels her internal struggle was uncomfortable to observe. Elisa too is comparable to Grace with her mind and heart in turmoil. Yet is not her actions which have consequences but rather the decision of one person many years ago to withhold such vital, life changing information that has a forbearing on the rest of Elisa's life until we meet her in Bristol. It just goes to show that with a few words everything can change and ones life will not be the same again with the repercussions felt down through the years. Elisa battles her own demons and a longing for her homeland and the sights, sounds, smells , colours and dancing that shaped and touched her. I had my fingers crossed that Elisa would seek and find the resolution and confirmation she so desperately needed in order to find her ultimate peace and happiness. For too long she had lived the lives of others now it was time to live her own back in the place where she truly belonged. But what obstacles will be placed in her path before true love can once again hopefully blossom?
So has Rosanna Ley written another fantastic storyline that tugs at your heartstrings and grips you from page one? Has she made the island of Cuba a place with a turbulent history and closed to so many come alive through the pages? Has she made you want to drop everything and visit Cuba to experience the sights, sounds, smells, colours and their exotic passionate dance the rumba? Has the author portrayed a story of love, friendship, secrets, betrayal in such a way that you are rooting for the majority of the characters the whole way through the book? Yes is the answer to all these questions and any others you might have. Rosanna has written this books with such passion and love for her subject matter that you can't fail to feel and sense her enthusiasm and dedication to the book and its characters. Yes the actions of certain characters won't always make you like them as their results have such far reaching consequences and there are so many misunderstandings. Yet Grace, Elisa, Theo and Robbie draw you into their world and broaden your own horizons, opinions and viewpoints and provide plenty of food for thought and discussion. Rosanna has reaffirmed for me what a brilliant author she truly is. She mentions in the acknowledgements that writing this book was full of challenges and way outside her personal experience.Yet you could never sense this at any point in the story Rosanna had done such impeccable and minute research that all the finer and more major details just helped to add that special something to the story and make the overall plot come alive even more.
Whether you are at home in the garden during the summer or sitting on a beach in a foreign clime Last Dance in Havana should be firmly by your side. It's everything you would want in a read as you are transported to an enigmatic time and place to read an absorbing, beautifully crafted story. As first books go in The Summer Reading Challenge, Quercus have definitely selected a stunner. In July the choice is Florence Grace by Tracy Rees, an author whose début I enjoyed immensely last year, let's hope it is as good as June's selection proved to be.
This work outlines the history of Cuba from the time Fidel Castro overthrew the dictator Batista in 1958 to the present when Fidel's brother Raul took over in 2008.
The first two protagonists in this story are Duardo and his 16 year old girlfriend Elisa, daughter of a rather wealthier family who depart for England (Bristol) when Duardo leaves her to fight with Castro. Elisa seems to have lived a fairly uneventful life until she reached he age of 39/40. She soon outlived parents, went to University, gained teaching qualifications and taught both English and Spanish. She had boy friends but none matched up to Duardo.
She finally married Philip, a widower, who had persuaded her to teach Spanish to his 9-year old daughter, Grace, so that she could fluently converse with his late wife's sister who lived in Spain.
The story then moves forward another 30 years (!) to when Grace is married to Robbie, a computer specialist. Grace has become a physiotherapist, specialising in relaxation massage. Grace in now 39 years old but unlike her husband has no apparent desire for children. Trouble ahead?
Robbie's best friend Theo proves to be the joker in the pack. He is basically an accountant but he is also adept at performing conjuring tricks, so much so that he hires himself out for children's parties. Theo was born in Cuba but had no memories of the country. Elisa and Theo are buddies of a kind in spite of their age difference.
This foregoing social relationships are soon to be split asunder, but you'll have to read the book to find out how and why.
Aside from social relationships, the novel describes some of the historic architecture of the Port of Bristol and that of Havana in Cuba, which In the days of the slave trade were linked.
It also describes the flamboyant lifestyle of the Cuban Capital; the dancing in the streets, and of course the Rumba. There is also life outside Havana, and we are taken on a visit to the old slave plantations of an earlier century.
On the whole I don't think this novel is as good as her first. It seems rather long and its time span, 1958 - 2012, too much to digest. Hence only 4 stars.
Like all her books it's about 100 pages too long. The Rosalyn chapters could have been cut: they did little and I skimmed them. Also, once everyone was in Cuba the pace slowed right down. What was all that about Grace and Theo going out for the day? That was just padding.
The other gripe I have is about the Grace/ Theo romance, which surely should be the main story. We should feel the immediacy of the madness and passion, yet I think every encounter was related as something in the past. For example, the first time when Theo arrives: she opens the door to him, but we only hear about the sex in retrospect. We should be there, feeling it, living it. Show, don't tell.
However, overall I enjoyed it, and I will read her next book.