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Beautiful Maria of My Soul Hardcover – June 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Hijuelos rewinds the "Mambo Kings" story to the beginning and tells the tale of Maria Garcia y Cifuentes, a poor girl from the campo who uses her beauty and determination to land jobs dancing in post-war Havana in the 1940s. She crosses paths with Nestor Castillo, one of the brothers who go on to become the Mambo Kings when they emigrate to the US. Their affair is tumultuous, but ultimately they part. Nestor is haunted by Maria and writes an achingly beautiful song, a bolero called "Beautiful Maria of My Soul" as an expression of his love. The song becomes famous and sets the Mambo Kings on their course to fame.
This novel is an interesting contrast to "Mambo Kings". The story line is about Maria's struggles as a young woman with no family and the way she plays her odds in order to survive. It has been some time since I read the first novel, but "Beautiful Maria" is quieter, and seems to run deeper. Both are about life choices and life's compromises and how we come to reconcile ourselves to both.Read more ›
This mind game serves as the starting point of this beautifully written novel. It tells the story of Maria, the woman who inspired the song, Beautiful Maria of my Soul, that is such a big part of the author's first novel, The Mambo KIngs Play Songs of Love. And, although it's been 20 years since I read that book, the memory of it echoes beautifully through this novel.
Essentially a character portrait of Maria, the book begins when she is 17 on her way to Havana from her village in the countryside. You learn about Maria's struggle to find work in the city, about her family life, and about how she begins to improve herself. First by becoming a dancer in a nightclub, then by hooking up with a minor gangster. And you learn about her meeting and her romance with Nestor Castillo, from The Mambo Kings. This meeting, and their romance, plays a central role in the lives of both people, eventually leading to the song. Some of the story was told in the first book, but so much more of Maria's own story is told here.
It seems to me to be a story of 20th Century Cuba. Poor, illiterate, ignorant, Maria is from the country, a world without any of the modern conveniences that wasn't different from the world of her grandparents. By moving to Havana and becoming part of the world of nightclubs and decadence that was so much a part of Cuba in the late 40's and 5t0's, she enters, as did Cuba, the modern world with a bang. Abandoned by the Castro revolution, she leaves Cuba, her gangster lover imprisoned, virtually penniless, for Miami, and makes her home there.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Endless novel with no theme whatsoever. Single paragraphs took up whole pages. Near the finish, it felt like the author wandered aimlessly for 20 chapters trying to find an ending... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Dirk
Although it's been several years since I read Mambo Kings, this book does a wonderful job tying the two together. Now it's time for me to reread Mambo Kings.Published 9 months ago by Laura Caffrey
I would have enjoyed this book if the author spent more time on character development, instead of Maria's perfect "assets". Read morePublished 16 months ago by TLP
Having visited Cuba in July 2013 I looked forward to reading this book and was pleased to find it mentioned many of the places we had visited. Read morePublished on May 8, 2014 by Rita Lucey
I would have preferred to get the Spanish edition.
I have met women like this. You can't get them out
of your mind for the rest of your life.
The first half of the book went on forever about how beautiful Maria was. The second half of the book improved somewhat, but I would not recommend this book. Read morePublished on March 16, 2014 by Betty Fullard-Leo
A tale well told with music and color and dare I say passion. This copy is now in the hands of its third reader who has sworn an oath to return it.Published on December 18, 2013 by Judyms