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Review: Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana
By Carlos Eire
(Free Press, Paperback, 9780743246415, 2004, 390pp.)

The Short of It:

A young boy’s take on Cuba before and after Fidel Castro.

The Rest of It:

Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. For the Cuba of Carlos’s youth—with its lizards and turquoise seas and sun-drenched siestas—becomes an island of condemnation once a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Fidel Castro ousts President Batista on January 1, 1959. Suddenly the music in the streets sounds like gunfire. Christmas is made illegal, political dissent leads to imprisonment, and too many of Carlos’s friends are leaving Cuba for a place as far away and unthinkable as the United States. Carlos will end up there, too, and fulfill his mother’s dreams by becoming a modern American man—even if his soul remains in the country he left behind. –Simon & Schuster

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Given the subject matter, I expected it to be more factual but Eire chose to focus on his idyllic childhood. His childhood is fantastical in nature as Carlos was a very imaginative child. His mother, referred to as Marie Antoinette and his father Louis XVI, are rather mysterious figures. They are well-off but the father is preoccupied with his material wealth, more so than his family’s well-being.  So when the family is torn apart, it seems that the burden of responsibility falls on Carlos himself.

Written years later, Eire’s book is full of charm and wit but it’s apparent while reading just how painful his story is to tell. In fact, he’s often said that he wanted this to be a work of fiction, not a memoir and I must tell you, it does read like fiction so for those of you who shy away from memoirs, this might be a good one for you to grab.

My book club read this and we discussed it a couple of weeks ago.  I think we were all in agreement that the writing was lovely, but many felt nothing for Carlos. He was wealthy and spoiled and this prevented many from being able to relate to his story but I don’t know, there is something horrifying about living in a dream world and then being thrown into reality at such a young age. It’s almost more tragic.

Overall, a good discussion book, lovely writing and you’ll learn a little about pre-war Cuba.

Waiting for Snow in Havana won the National Book Award in 2003.

Source: Borrowed
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