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"A welcome antidote..."

     So far, the reaction to The Cubans in the UK has been quite positive. It has been reviewed by The Times of London, The Telegraph and, most recently, the Financial Times, which called it "a welcome antidote to the spell of tropical lyricism that Havana casts over so many visitors."

Here is the review by the great John Rathbone.


The Cubans — life in a world of lost charisma


Financial Times July 28, 2020

Elisa García screamed so loudly when she learnt that her son, grandchild and son-in-law had drowned that her husband Jorge took her to the roof of their house to hide her distress from their neighbours. The state security official who had brought the news meanwhile slipped out the front door.

The sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat in July 1994, which left 37 of its 68 passengers dead, almost reshaped Cuban history. Commandeered by Cubans desperate to leave the island amid the economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the boat was rammed and sunk by Cuban coastguard cutters seven miles offshore.

Reading news reports in London at the time, I vividly remember the rising political temperature of that hot summer. The unrest culminated in riots where Cubans yelled for the end of the regime and were only quietened after Fidel Castro waded into the crowd.

The ensuing sense of futility is a central sadness of the lives knitted together in this otherwise often joyful book

The sinking of the 13 de Marzo also forms a central moment in The Cubans, Anthony DePalma’s perceptive portrait of the lives of ordinary citizens, their hopes and inevitable disillusionment after 60 years of revolution.

DePalma, a New York Times correspondent, first went to Cuba in 1979 and has gone back often ever since (unlike his wife, an exile, who was so saddened after one trip that she could not bear to visit again). The result of his clear-eyed affection for this midsized communist island — with its “ego the size of a continent” and courageous people living with “an excess of prohibitions and a minimum of inhibitions” — is a deeply repor