“Cleeton has penned an atmospheric, politically insightful, and highly hopeful homage to a lost world. Devour Next Year in Havana and you, too, will smell the perfumed groves, taste the ropa vieja, and feel the sun on your face.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Books set in places I don’t know much about have always enlightened me about their history and this is one such story.
This is a beautifully written novel about two sides of the Cuban revolution and the people who lived through it.
Elisa Perez belongs to one of the most affluent and well connected families in Havana in 1958, living in the lap of luxury and having to concern herself only with attending ballets and parties and grooming herself for the marriage her parents will eventually arrange for her. Daughters of a sugar baron, she and her sisters have never known want and live a closeted life.
But resentment for the president Batista has fueled a revolution and the rebels are gaining traction. There is talk of times changing everywhere.
Elisa remains mostly unaffected until she meets and falls in love with a revolutionary, a man who by his very passionate beliefs mesmerises her. Their love for each other is a secret only known to them and put down in the letters they write to each other. Elisa cannot imagine abandoning and being ostracized from her family by openly declaring her love and the man she loves is committed to the revolution.
Until the president is forced to run and as a consequence, Elisa and her family are forced to leave to the United States.
In 2017,Marisol, Elisa’s granddaughter is feeling hopelessly adrift after losing her grandmother who was the one who raised her and understood her best. When she sets out to Havana to fulfill her grandmother’s desire of having her ashes scattered in her beloved Cuba, she has no clue of the events about to unfold. Coming face to face with a family secret that changes everything she has taken for granted, Marisol is also drawn to a man whose views make him the target of the regime.
Through the eyes and words of these women the story of the revolution is told.. How a fight hoping for a better future can result in a worse one, what the fate of those forced to leave their own country is and how those left behind perceive them, the hopes and desires of both sides and most of all, what it is to fall in love with someone who does not fit into your world but becomes your entire universe… All of this is told with an amazing clarity.
In a fight of this magnitude, there is no one who remains unaffected.. such was the case in Cuba too.. Those who had everything lost a lot and those who had little continued to struggle in the wake of the new regime. To live without the freedom to voice your thoughts or achieve your own dreams is the kind of imprisonment that shackles you. How it defeats the spirit of the people and makes them be grateful for the smallest things, thereby silencing their protests, is poignantly written.
I was fascinated by the insights into the history of the land and the havoc faced by its people and this was an Unputdownable read for me.
Added 4th February 2019