RACHEL'S SONG by Miguel Barnet


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 A slim fictionalized memoir, by Cuban writer Barnet, of one of those women whom the author would like to present not only as a mistress to an age but as witness to the great events of her lifetime. Except for a few disclaimers from one of her former husbands, Rachel tells her own story--neither a particularly unusual nor a particularly insightful account of life in Cuba before the revolution. Daughter of a long-gone German and a Hungarian mother, who makes her living as a discreet and high-class prostitute, Rachel is a beautiful girl who soon becomes a precocious dancer of the rumba at a local nightclub. There, a wealthy admirer becomes her lover; but when Rachel finds herself pregnant, the family steps in and prevents him from marrying her, which leads to his suicide. What follow are the usual vicissitudes of an artiste's life. An elderly circus-owner helps her career, and marries her, but Rachel tires of him and, though she is grateful, sends him away and takes other lovers. Along the way, the Americans step in and help stop the revolt of 1912 by Cuban blacks; Cuba embarks on its lavish belle Çpoque period, an extravaganza fueled by sugar; and Rachel becomes a star at the well-known Alhambra Theater. When the theater begins to collapse and good roles go to younger women, she leaves. The movies finally end her career, and only death remains--though Rachel still feels full of life. Rachel is no original: her story has been sung elsewhere and better. Only the occasionally evocative descriptions of an older Cuba make this different. A very lo-cal read.*justify no*

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-915306-87-5
Page count: 118pp
Publisher: Curbstone Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991