‘Cuba, 1958. Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he’s the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro’s army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her?
England, 2012. Grace has a troubled relationship with her father, whom she blames for her beloved mother’s untimely death. And this year more than ever she could do with a shoulder to cry on – Grace’s career is in flux, she isn’t sure she wants the baby her husband is so desperate to have and, worst of all, she’s begun to develop feelings for their best friend Theo. Theo is a Cuban born magician but even he can’t make Grace’s problems disappear. Is the passion Grace feels for Theo enough to risk her family’s happiness?’
It is now time for a bit of time travelling as you step back in time with the ‘Last Dance in Havana’. Rosanna Ley brings to life an exotic tale full of Cuban history, personal memories, time lost and time gained. I was given this book to review as part of #QuercusSummer, thank you to Quercus for inviting me to be involved! For reasons I am unsure of, ‘Last Dance in Havana’ was the first book of Rosanna’s that I had ever read. That revelation in particular made the reviewing experience even more enjoyable. I was about to ‘meet’ a new author within a story that I had no idea could capture my mind as much as it did.
‘Last Dance in Havana’ switches between 1958 in Cuba, and 2012 in Bristol, England. Straight away we are introduced to a sixteen year old Elisa in her home country of Cuba. She thinks that no guy would want to dance with her, but, much to her surprise, a mysterious man leads her to dance the passionate and powerful rumba. Elisa soon realises that there is more to the man who meets the eye. Little did she know how much he, and the rumba, could change her life.
The story continues to follow Elisa’s life throughout the years, and introduces us to her step-daughter Grace. Grace and Elisa have always been very close, but, due to Grace’s error in judgement, relationships that were once close, get tested in multiple ways.
I must say I was a bit surprised when I discovered how long the book is, but, considering the amount of detail and magic that is written, it’s no wonder it’s longer than average! Before I began reading the novel, I had never been to Cuba. After I had read the novel, I felt as though I was just back from a holiday in Cuba. Discovering the uncertain times that Cuban people faced was a true eye opener. It might be slight ignorance on my part, but I had no idea that the circumstances back then were so very tainted. I feel that Rosanna’s description of Cuba and the events that unfolded were written beautifully. All I can assume is that Rosanna has stepped onto Cuban soil herself because everything written seemed vivid and fresh.
As the story unfolds, we meet other characters that influence Elisa and Grace and their lives. I found each of the characters to be quite complex because I felt that I had to really get to know them throughout the story before I could understand them. Usually I would find characters with extreme complexity a bit of a chore within a book, however, due to the nature of the situations within the book, I felt it was definitely needed. Because of that, I was able to grow with the characters rather than think that they had outstayed their welcome.
One character in particular, Grace, had me sitting on the fence in terms of my opinion of her. For me, she is one of the ‘marmite‘ characters as the choices she made, made me question her integrity. Having said that, another scenario within the book saw me relating to her on an emotional level.
Rounding up, I did enjoy the book. I found it to be extremely well written with extreme depth. It did take me a while to get into it because of the amount of information and the switching between years, but that is nothing against the book itself. ‘Last Dance in Havana’ is definitely a book to lose yourself in at summer time, or anytime. Why escape to your back garden with a blow up pool when you can escape to Cuba…from your bed?
What is Quercus Summer?
‘Quercus is about to launch our biggest library promotion Pick the Perfect Poolside Read with Quercus next week! Working in partnership with 150 libraries and the Reading Agency we’ll be inviting readers to travel the world with Quercus this summer. We wanted to extend our summer reading challenge out to the people we know who love to read just as much as us, the lovely UK book blogging community!’