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Beautiful Maria of My Soul Hardcover – June 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In a sequel of sorts to The Mambo King Play Songs of Love, Hijuelos examines the life of the muse of that novel as she moves from childhood to the fast lane in mid-20th century Cuba. María enchants whether she's dancing in clubs, appearing in advertisements, or walking the sweltering streets of Havana. Her story is one of fierce love, luscious sex, and otherworldly beauty, but also of heartbreak and hardness, as she carries painful memories of the death of her sister and her dear mother. The two main men in her life are Ignacio, a nefarious, strong-willed businessman who provides poor María with extravagant clothes and an apartment, and Nestor, a poor musician whom she loves passionately. Less prominent but still present is María's daughter, Teresa, and her growing up in America. Hijuelos's Havana is as much a full-fleshed character as María as it endures the rise of Castro and the mass exodus of Cubans to Miami in the 1960s. An intelligent and playful ending caps off a vivid story that should delight readers of The Mambo Kings and enthrall those new to Hijuelos's imaginative and florid voice. (June)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Though Beautiful Maria of My Soul may not match the emotional depth of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, critics generally considered Hijuelos's new novel a success. A seasoned storyteller, Hijuelos vividly evokes the vibrant lost world of prerevolutionary Havana, the Cuban Revolution, and modern-day Miami, and he audaciously inserts himself into the narrative's contemporary scenes to bring the story full circle--a device commended by the critics. However, Maria, defined by her appearance, fails to develop into a full-fledged character, and Hijuelos's relentless reminders of her extraordinary beauty and her effect on men grow tedious. Some readers may also object to the book's robust sexuality. Despite these complaints, Beautiful Maria of My Soul is a welcome expansion on the much-loved The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, as well as a finely written novel in its own right.
Top customer reviews
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The world that Hijuelos invents is so fully realized that you can picture the locations -- in Cuba, New York, Miami -- as though you were remembering some aspect of your own life. Along with the lyrical writing, in a latin magical realistic style, Hijuelos has expanded his character's lives in such a way that I find myself wondering "what if" and inventing other scenarios for the characters.
These two books transport the reader in the way that is the best of fiction, creating an entirely believable, realistic world that we are allowed to share with the people in the books.
Into this atmosphere comes young Maria from the countryside who gets involved with this lifestyle through her dancing and men in her life..She is caught up in the nightlife and the destinies of Nestor and Ignacio..Nestor eventually heads to New York to play with the popular, new Mombo Kings Band.The rest of the story involves Maria's love life and subsequent life experiences away from her native land.
From the bright colorful book jacket to the wild night life, the book conveys the look and feel of the times. Even the dress on the streets and the flamboyant costumes of the clubs, portray the loose morals, hedonistic activities and whirlwind romance of Cuba.
The book is well -written by Oscar Hijuelos who is also a character in the book as observer of this true story of romance and life between couples in the new evolving cities of New York, Miami and Havana. With its sensuality and accepted sexual practices, it paints a picture of those heady days of youth. I highly recommend the book to those more worldly, mature readers.
Most recent customer reviews
I have met women like this. You can't get them out
of your mind for the rest of your life.