- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (September 10, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 031224293X
- ISBN-13: 978-0312242930
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,098,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Paperback – September 10, 1999
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Showing 1-8 of 18 reviews
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I stumbled across this book (English version) by accident and was quickly entranced by the skill and sensitivity with which Alina tells her story. I wondered whether that skill was Alina's or the work of the translator, and I bought the Spanish version to find out. I was glad to see the skill is totally Alina's, the translator doing an excellent recreation in English.
Two things in particular stand out -- the precise and detailed memory of things she experienced when she was not yet three years old, and the lyrical prose that flows magically and without ostentation or exaggeration. It is not an easy book to read quickly. The text is cubist in structure, often jerking back and forth between scenes whose connection is not always immediately apparent. And she uses a variety of nicknames and descriptives for the major characters, to the extent that one often has to think twice to connect the person immediately mentioned to the rest of the story. She is a master of understatement to emphasize a point. The most gruesome and ugly events are tossed off with a cubist aside that lets the reader's imagination extend the description into an abstract metaphor. The portraits of the various characters are exquisitely drawn, with all their pimples and warts and beauty. Buildings and streets and plants take on an aura of high art. It adds up to a literary masterpiece.
A typical expression of this gift is her sensual response to the forms and voices and bouquets of the city Havana before and after the Revolution, as a woman passing through the phases of her life (pp 16-17 English).
I am not surprised at the hate poured out on Alina and her work by several reviewers here. This must be a very painful book for ideological leftists who want to see Castro's Cuba as a paradise on earth and Socialism as the very cure for all the ills of human existence.
poignant but not soppy. Having just returned from Cuba, falling in love with the country but not its leaders, this is a perfect fit for me!