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on 13 March 2015
Great reading
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 3 November 2013
Following on from his international ballet dancing fame, film debut and autobiography, Carlos Acosta has expanded his repertoire by writing his first novel. The narrator is Oscar Mandinga. He recalls his grandfather's words, 'No man knows who he is until he knows his past, the history of his country'. Oscar is alone in the world, the last of his line. He wears an amulet around his neck the name of which is pig's foot. Oscar sets out to find his ancestral home, a small village in the south-eastern corner of Cuba called Pata de Puerco which means Pig's Foot in Spanish. It consists of a collection of shacks smelling of coal and paraffin, surrounded by mud, mountains and mines. It is here he begins to learn the descent of his family, their activities, secrets and later indignities. He relates these within the context of the turbulent history of Cuba, tracing four generations of one family, effectively from the 1800's to modern day.

Acosta, through his protagonist narrator, takes on this difficult task with vivid descriptions of the village life of his ancestors, with graphically depicted violence and tragedy, in terms that at times seem exaggerated and passed down as folklore. His family later moved to Havana. This is incorporated with his genuine concern for Cuba's socio-political history; slavery, wars, independence, dictators and revolutions. Acosta writes with dramatic, fast-moving prose that can at times be beautiful, particularly when describing the Cuban landscape or the people he meets during his quest. There are some passages that seem inconsistent or out of place for the times (usually amusing), but overall this is a fascinating, imaginative debut novel, full of well-drawn characters, that takes the reader through Oscar's tale in search of the truth. It is open to interpretation how much of this comes out in the story. Acosta's talent and enthusiasm for writing are sometimes breath-taking, always interesting and full of promise of things to come. Enjoyable. Translation by Frank Wynne.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 September 2016
Picked this as my choice for Cuba in my round-the-world reading challenge. But only managed about 60 pages before deciding life was too short.
Narrated by a troubled youth who's been brought up by his grandparents, he describes/ imagines his forebears' life in a remote village called Pig's Foot. This is the era of slavery - and of slaughter of the whites by their oppressed black workers. It's a brutish life that leaves the narrator's black great-grandfather a seriously damaged man.
And events unfold and I found I just didn't care. It's all tinged with typical South American magic realism - but this is not to be compared with the superb Garcia Marquez. It's just a bit flat and lacks something.
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on 10 January 2014
I wanted so badly to like this book. I'd read reviews comparing Carlos Acosta's writing to that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is my favourite author. Needless to say, I was excited and later horribly disappointed when this book fell short for me.

It wasn't the writing style; Acosta's writing is fluid and unique with a very charismatic narrator. The narration of Pig's Foot was one of my favourite bits of the book and most of the reason I gave it two stars instead of one.

The setting wasn't the problem either. I read a lot of South American and Hispanic literature so it wasn't that I couldn't relate or understand where or even when the story was taking place.

I think my biggest problem came 1/3 of the way in when I found myself asking, "What's the point? Why do I care about this story and these people?" I felt no compulsion to keep turning pages and I didn't really feel involved in the book as I felt I should have. I simply didn't care about the characters or about how the whole thing ended.. and that included the weak plot twist.

Looking at other reviews, I'm relieved to see that I'm not alone. This is one book you'll either love emphatically or strongly dislike. Sadly, I'm in the second camp.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 March 2014
Reading 'Pig's Foot' I was strongly reminded of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'. There are many elements in common - a lush, jungle setting, a family saga style tale full of eccentric characters, and a hefty dose of magical realism. 'Pig's Foot' is an easy read and is very well translated without any awkward passages to give it away - I didn't actually realise it was written in a language other than English originally. It has a bizarre twist at the end which I wasn't sure about, but I have to admit I likewise didn't see coming.

'Pig's Foot' is the tale of a small community founded mainly by two former slaves, the ancestors of the narrator. It contains both bizarre and realistic elements - hence the 'magical realism' label. It's not a genre I particularly like because you're never quite sure where you stand, so to speak. For those who enjoy this style though - for example, fans of Rushdie and Garcia Marquez - it is a great example of the genre and I'm sure will be enjoyed.

Even for someone who isn't too enamoured with the magical realist style, there are still things to enjoy in terms of the quality of writing and a story that retains pace and purpose. The characters are interesting, even if not believable in the literal sense of the word, and plenty happens. The descriptions are good, conjuring up a vivid, almost hallucinatory atmosphere that suits the style of the book very well.

I've given three stars, because I simply prefer a more linear and meaningful plot line and I like my reality and magic/fantasy firmly segregated in a novel. That's not a reflection on the quality of the writing though. I am sure that readers who like magical realism as a style, and don't prefer plot-driven novels, will find this much more enjoyable than I did. I would highly recommend to anyone who likes Garcia Marquez or Rushdie, and to anyone with an interest in Latin America as it conjures up Cuba very well.
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on 26 June 2014
Acosta joins the illustrious ranks of Latin American magical realist writers, encompassing sexual, social and racial politics as well as his personal quest for 'home' in a moving allegorical autobiography.
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on 27 February 2016
Extraordinary account of life in Cuba before and after the revolution.
Mixes the magic and the reality of strange beliefs, painting the heart of this fascinating
island and the struggles of the Cuban people to earn their freedom.
Carlos flies through the air of history, I want to go there, and taste the place before they ruin it again.
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on 29 October 2013
I was dazzled into buying Pig's Foot when I saw the dashing Mr Costa in conversation, it's a good ploy from his team and it works because the book doesn't stand up on its own.

The story is charming enough, it's clear that the author would like to be able to write magic realism as well as Allende or Mrrquez do, but it doesn't come off. There is no depth or soul to the characters they are more caricatures and the conspiratorial "let me tell you" narrator comes across as heavy handed.

In his defence Acosta in conversation admitted that he does not imagine he is a great novelist rather that he wanted to try his hand at telling a story. So he is quite right, he is not a great novelist but he tells a decent enough story.
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on 5 May 2015
I found it rather disappointing. I enjoyed the first half of the story but then it became surreal. I liked Carlos Acosta's autobiography:'No Way Home' but this book is not really for me. However some readers might enjoy it.
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on 15 January 2014
Written with great awareness of how to present the ebb and flow of dramatic tension, and full of South American magical realism
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