Monday, 7 July 2014

Broken Paradise by Cecilia Samartin

This book starts off with elegant prose, beautiful description, and subtle drama. Then, about 100 pages from the end, it devolves into melodrama, as horrible events are thrown ungracefully and willy-nilly at the page. The end managed to partially suck me in again, but that intervening time had put a real dent in my enjoyment of the book.

Broken Paradise centers around two cousins in Cuba during the revolution, one of whom leaves with her family to go to the United States, and one of whom stays. It is an elegiac poem to a Cuba that is as much memory as fact. It is about the difficulty of being an expatriate, and the ways you remember the land you fled. It is about the worst of Castro's regime.

It was, for a while, a complex vision of life in Cuba. And then that fell apart. It's not that I minded what happened, it was the ham-handed way that a previously elegant author tried to stuff in one more tragedy after another. They weren't handled well, and felt forced. One or two tragic events might have worked, four or five were too many, and badly managed.

Nora has left for the United States, but will never leave Cuba in her heart. Alicia, her golden-haired cousin, stayed, for the love of a man, and suffers. Both suffer - Nora metaphorically, Alicia literally.

And it is frustrating because for a while, this book was so good, so quietly sad, so evocative. And then it felt forced. And I felt frustrated. While the ending managed to tug at my emotions despite the previous events, it wasn't enough to redeem this one.

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