Review: Next Year in Havana ~ by Chanel Cleeton
356 pages (paperback) ~ Historical Fiction, Contemporary Romance
February 2018 ~ Penguin/Berkley
My Rating: 4/5
After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…
Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…
Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.
Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.
It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a Historical Fiction novel, and this book reminded me why I need to do it more often. Next Year in Havana was a heartbreaking journey of two women, grandmother, and granddaughter, who are living through similar experiences decades apart and both facing repercussions of the 1958 Cuban Revolution.
What I loved:
- The Cuban History- I knew nothing about Cuban history and this element of the book was absolutely fascinating. It was told through everyday events, struggles, and daily life, so I never felt like I was witnessing something epic, but rather I was witnessing the slow change that had horrific repercussions.
- Characters – The pieces of history are given through the eyes of a wide range of characters – a rich upper-class woman, a struggling revolutionary, a teacher who is trying to survive and make a difference, and an outsider who wants so badly to belong to her Cuban Heritage. This gave the history a well rounded and whole view.
- Connection to family/heritage – This book really expressed the inherent need to feel a connection to our blood, to our heritage, and to a land that embodies both. This was heartbreaking and beautiful simultaneously and was so well done.
What I didn’t love:
- The romance between Marisol and Luis was pretty lackluster. I didn’t get the feeling that there was any kind of passion or all-consuming love between them. I would have liked as much insight into their relationship as we got from Elisa and Pablo’s relationship.
- The stories of the two women definitely paralleled each other, but it felt like we got much more insight into Elisa’s story, while Marisol’s was kind of a side note. I would have liked it if both women’s lives were equally fleshed out.
This was my first Chanel Cleeton book and I’ll definitely plan to read more from her.
For more information on Chanel Cleeton and her books, check her out on Goodreads