HAVANA DREAMS by Wendy Gimbel


A Story of Cuba
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A socialite. A revolutionary. A sour grandmother. Gimbel, a literary scholar turned freelance journalist, weaves these characters together with a few history lessons for an enjoyably dramatic family-based tale. Gimbel summered in Cuba as a child with her Cuban grandmother, until the revolution, when her relatives came to the US. Returning to the island in 1991, she realizes her own family’s experience has become irrelevant. Instead, she focuses on the remains of another family, aristocrats before the revolution, who decided to stay. Gimbel’s heroine, Naty Revuelta, is still fighting her disillusionment by the revolution she supported in the1950s. A restless housewife and the unofficial press agent to Fidel Castro during his failed raid on the Moncada barracks in 1953, Naty began a flirtatious correspondence with Castro while he was in prison. The love letters the two exchanged are included here. When Castro was released, they consummated their affair, but he quickly disappeared, leaving Naty and her husband with his baby. Soon after the revolution, Naty dismissed her husband in the futile hope that she would reunite with Castro. Naty’s principal companion became her ancient mother. A woman who compared herself to Queen Elizabeth, Naty’s mother, was never a supporter of the revolution. She had stayed in Havana simply because she couldn—t think of living anywhere else. Anxious for guests who could appreciate her crystal and English china, Naty’s mother had little but caustic remarks for her daughter. Telling the tale of a divorced friend, she noted, “They didn’t start agitating for a communist revolution, just because things were difficult.” Naty and Fidel’s daughter had no patience for the revolution either, and found her 15 minutes of fame as a high profile defector to the US. Describing life in a Havana plagued with shortages of electricity, meat, and gasoline, Gimbel rejects dogma to tell an intensely personal story about how the revolution changed everything. (6 photos) (First printing of 50,000; author tour)

Pub Date: June 17th, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-43053-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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