The Other Side of Paradise by Julia Cooke

other-side-of-paradiseCanadians love Cuba. For many, it is the sun filled destination of choice. We like it for many reasons: the people, the beautiful beaches, great music and of course the absence of Americans (sorry American friends). We feel like it is our playground. But few Canadians make it past the resort gates. The Cuba we know and love has absolutely no relation to the Cuba that exists for its inhabitants. And that is why The Other Side of Paradise by Julia Cooke is such a wonderful and engrossing book. Continue reading

My Lost Cuba by Celso Gonzalez-Falla

my-lost-cubaLike most Canadians I love Cuba. That is one of the things that makes us different from Americans. All winter long Cuba is filled with Canadians on holiday. We like the people (terribly friendly), we like the beaches, we like the music and the rum isn’t bad either. That being said, only a small fraction of Canadians ever leave their resorts and see the ‘real’ Cuba. Fewer still understand the recent history that brought Cuba to where it is today. And that is why I was so interested in reading My Lost Cuba.

My Lost Cuba focuses on an affluent farming family during the 1950’s. Mike, the eldest son is summoned back to Cuba from his studies in the States to help out with the family business. Unlike his father, Mike is much more at ease with the farm workers and seems to be eager to see a new era emerge in Cuba. It is through Mike that we learn much about the lives of the ‘common man’ during this era.

As a piece that gives insight into the social history of Cuba, My Lost Cuba is amazing. As a novel, however, I found it lacking. The story is very simplistic and the tone rather didactic. Make no mistake, the novels reads as though it was written to teach history. Moments of crisis emerge more to show the reader the precarious nature of the government than to forward the plot. And my personal pet peeve: every single and eligible individual finds love by the end of the story.

Who would like this book? This book definitely satisfied my need to understand more about pre-Communist Cuba. It was insightful and interesting from a historical point of view. It is not, however, the type of book I would recommend to take on your beach vacation to Cuba. Unless you normally sun yourself by the pool with a huge tome of history, My Lost Cuba will not fit the bill. It is a book more for history buffs than those looking for a literary romp where they might learn something.

This book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.