Cuba, 1958. Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he’s the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro’s army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her?
England, 2012. Grace has a troubled relationship with her father, whom she blames for her beloved mother’s untimely death. And this year more than ever she could do with a shoulder to cry on – Grace’s career is in flux, she isn’t sure she wants the baby her husband is so desperate to have and, worst of all, she’s begun to develop feelings for their best friend Theo. Theo is a Cuban born magician but even he can’t make Grace’s problems disappear. Is the passion Grace feels for Theo enough to risk her family’s happiness?
Last Dance in Havana is an engaging tale of lost love, mistakes made and the consequences of doing the right thing.
It essentially has two main time frames of 1958 and 2012 representing the present day. The first period tells Elisa’s back story and 2012 catches up with her and her stepdaughter Gracie who is having problems of her own.
It’s a story that captures your interest from the beginning and the setting of Cuba was an interesting one. I’m ashamed to admit that my knowledge of Cuban history is largely limited to a cursory knowledge of their revolutionary saviour Che Guevara through to Fidel Castro and the Bay of Pigs (that latter sounds more knowledgeable than it is). Beyond that Cuba brings to mind heels, cigars and salsa. As it happens cigars do play a part in that they are a product of the tobacco and supporting slave trade that helped play a large part in creating an oppressed society looking for it’s freedom.
When the 16 year old Elisa falls in love with Duardo, a young hot headed freedom fighter, their relationship is one which will impact on her life in ways which she can never have imagined. Throughout her life both he, and Cuba will continue to exert their influence long after she has left.
In 2012, the 70 year old Elisa, is older and wiser, and reflecting on the the way her life has been shaped by her relationships and friendships. However it is her stepdaughter’s story that comes to the fore in a way which will have a major impact on Elisa.
I really enjoyed this story, I liked the characters with all their foibles and youthful swagger, through to the more thoughtful and considered older selves. It was a story that can resonate with us all as it looks at the consequences of choices made and decisions taken, especially when the head rules the heart or vice versa.
In addition I enjoyed the context of the Cuban setting and the background of slavery and the later fight for freedom which was enlightening and informative. The passion of the country, the music and of course salsa was really brought to life and makes me want to learn more about the history and the heritage of the place.
If you like a story with an engaging plot line, great characters and an historical context for added drama, then this book is not too be missed.
I received a review copy of this book via the publishers Quercus in return for an honest review.