Book set in CUBA (and Dublin) One kiss is indeed all it takes! 16th February 2014

One Kiss in Havana by Michelle Jackson: book set in Cuba and Dublin.

They walked with ease up Calle Mercaderes until they came to the Plaza de la Catedral. The Baroque façade of San Cristóbal shone like a glittering prize of colonial architecture. An old woman dressed in traditional colonial costume – complete with white lace and a red rose – sat smoking a cigar on the steps. She was surrounded by tourists taking photographs and a small dog was yapping at her feet. An old man by her side is selling peanuts in white paper cones”.

IMG_1167I chose to read this book set in Cuba shortly after finishing Peter Millar’s travelogue Slow Train to Guantanamo which opened up the incredible world that is the island; I wanted to go on and experience the full TripFiction gamut of “seeing a location through an author’s eyes” by reading a different genre. What I learned from Peter’s book was expertly echoed in Michelle’s book, but with a full-on romantic twist. It proved to be a delightful companion piece to the travelogue. Cuba through fiction and prose, a terrific introduction to Cuban culture.

This is the story of three sisters, Louise, Emma and Sophie, who each has her ordained unconscious role to play within the first family, grappling with a self referring Mother and a Father who dotes on the youngest sister, Sophie. Add some men into the mix and this is a story that rolls around the sisters’ lives, complicated and interwoven at times, delightfully observant of family mores at others.

Emma has lost her husband Paul and invited Sophie to accompany her on a trip to Cuba that Paul had planned before he died. Emma is keen to engage in the culture and history of the country, Sophie less so, as she is man-man-man focussed all the way. So, it is Emma who takes us by the hand (her other hand is firmly attached to her new budding beau Felipe), and with them we explore the idiosyncrasies of Cuban culture from Havana to Varadero and back again. Of course the history of Hemingway in Cuba just has to feature. Hemingway’s legacy is ubiquitous in the country, La Terraza in Cojimar, with its links to Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea takes on particular significance for Emma as the book draws to its conclusion.

The novel culminates in a surprise birthday party in Dublin planned by the sisters for the 70th birthday of their Mother Maggie which is the apotheosis of the family saga. Here differences and arguments are aired, resolution for many is achieved….

Originally, we came to Michelle’s writing through TripFiction – our first encounter was 5 Peppermint Grove (set in Perth, Australia and Dublin) – and her writing is perfect for the TripFiction site. She writes so well and smoothly, and locations are characters in their own right. In this novel, I feel I have visited Cuba via words, which has been a truly wonderful experience.

I cannot end, however, without mention of the cover. This book has been in our office for several months but the cover somehow never encouraged anyone to pick it up. I only did so because I was keen to bring together a couple of books set in Cuba. Although it is bright and sunny, it doesn’t really reflect the quality of the story and writing. If you haven’t tried Michelle’s books, and you like well written romance…. what are you waiting for? Enjoy.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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