A historical novel chronicles the dramatic rise of Fidel Castro to power.
When Vicente Bolivar first meets Castro in 1951, he is only 16 years old and living on the fringes of society—poor, “semi-literate,” and dark skinned. His father, a soldier, was murdered by Batista when Vicente was only 6 months old: “I was like a stray mutt, not paid much attention to—until I became annoying.” Vicente is at first suspicious of yet another ersatz savior—he has learned to be cynical. He hears that Castro is the “son of a rich sugar tycoon.” But Vicente is quickly intoxicated as much by Castro’s oratorical gifts as by his sense of political justice. Vicente becomes his driver, bodyguard, and soldier as well as a key player in his insurrectional attempts to overthrow the government. Castro’s first organized coup is a disaster, and lands both him and Vicente in prison after a rigged show trial. But after an extended exile in Mexico, a time during which he forges a friendship with Che Guevara, Castro regroups for yet another daring coup. Cost meticulously charts Castro’s struggles against a corrupt government that puts the interests of imperialistic investors over the needs of an ailing citizenry. The author constructs a powerfully action-packed story, researched scrupulously. But this is not a nuanced account of Castro—he is presented as a kind of warrior/saint crusading against authoritarianism, without a hint of the despot he would soon become. Instead of a complex psychological study, Cost provides hagiography, studded with clichés: “Fidel Castro had emerged from their mountain hideout as an idol to the people. The men wanted to be him, and the women wanted to be with him.”
A lively but one-sided depiction of Castro.