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Archive for the ‘England’ Category

Last Dance in Havana

Author: Rosanna Ley
Published: 19 May 2016
Reviewed: 15 June 2016
Copy supplied by Quercus Books in return for an honest review as part of Quercus Summer Reading Book Club
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Description:

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?

 My Thoughts & Review:
The moment the Rumba is introduced in this book I knew I’d be held captive by the little details.  The meaning of the dance and the symbolism it holds are beautifully detailed by Ley, you can almost feel the beat of the music, the swell of the bodies rhythmically following the beat of the band, it’s intoxicating, addictive and hard to believe its a novel and not a holiday guide!   
Following the stories of Elisa and her stepdaughter Grace, Rosanna Ley weaves us expertly back and forth between Cuba in 1958 and Bristol in 2012.  
Elisa emerging into womanhood finds love at a dance, she meets Duardo, an aspiring rebel, and within moments of them dancing the rumba she knows she is is love with him.  But as the troubles intensify, the fighting takes it toll on families in Cuba and Elisa’s family make the decision to move to England to start a new life.  We follow Elisa’s life in England in 2012 but dip back into her past as she recounts those days in Cuba before leaving, the beginnings of her life in England and how she came to be part of Grace’s family. 
Fast forward to 2012 and Grace is struggling with relationships of her own.  The relationship with her father is rapidly deteriorating, having never forgiven him for the death of her mother, his alcohol abuse has become another barrier between them.  As she grapples with her husband’s desperate desire to start a family, she becomes increasingly aware of the chemistry between her and Theo, their best friend and the more she fights it, the more intense the feelings become.  
Through the tales of the two women we are to discover love, sadness and longing.  Both want something they cannot have, have lost people they have deeply loved and cared for, but most of all, they long to find what makes them happyfor one it’s being home, it‘s a person that is home and for the other, it’s a special someoneAll of the characters are incredibly realistic, very well written and some of them really make you stop and think, Elisa putting everyone’s needs and happiness before her own is just one example.  The only character I didn’t really take much of a liking to was Robbie, Grace’s husband, but for obvious reason He has to be sacrificed to allow Grace’s story to evolve, and as we only see him through the eyes of Grace it is no wonder that he can be a bit wearing at times.  
The sensitivity shown by Ley towards Philip was very well written.  He lost his beloved wife in a car accident and at the same time his young daughter began to hate him and blame him for the loss of her mother.  He turns to alcohol, feeling it is the only option open to him and struggles on through life, wishing he could reconnect with his daughter but also not push away his new wife Elisa.  The sadness of his tale knits almost poetically with the tales of Elisa and Grace, all are struggling with secrets, all are held back by something and desperately need to move on.    
Ley‘s writing is truly beautiful, she brings Cuba alive with dynamic tenacity, giving the reader a glimpse of the charm of Cuba – the colours, the sights, the atmosphere.  But also, taking the time to include the details of the darker times, the marred history, the struggles faced, this really gives a complete picture of the country – warts and all if you will.  
Another area I found the attention to detail impressive was when describing Grace’s massage therapy work – the techniques used, the use of sound and aromatherapy oils etc show that Ley has gone the extra mile to give her readers as much detail as possible and this added to my enjoyment of the book.  
This is a fantastic summer read, you can almost feel the heat of the Cuban sun through the writing, you can imagine the winding streets and views of Bristol that Elisa and Grace wander whilst thinking But best of all, you can pick up this book and becomes lost in it, it’s vibrant, realistic, entertaining and utterly wonderful!
You can buy a copy of Last Dance in Havana here.
 
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