Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton – Book Thoughts

Why is love so convenient in fiction? Also, how do people manage to fall in love at first sight, without knowing anything about the other person? I’ve never understood or liked this concept in books somehow.

My January destination for the ‘Have books, will travel’ book club was Cuba. I had heard rave reviews for this book from another reader friend whose reading tastes I like, and so I picked this up instantly.

Book Destination : CUBA


The story spans two generations of women and alternates between the past and the present. We alternate between Elisa’s past when the Cuban revolution against Batista was at its last stages and how it impacted her lives and the lives of people she loved, and then we come to the present with Marisol’s travel to Cuba/Havana to fulfil her grandmother Elisa’s last wishes of having her ashes scattered there. Both women fall in love with men they wouldn’t have fallen for, otherwise – in other words, men who probably weren’t their ‘type’ 🙂

To me, this book was not a romance novel. Instead, I felt as if the author just used romance or love as a concept to lead us into the story and journey with her through Cuba’s history and learn about the not so romantic reality of Cuba , it’s Government and the condition of people living there. The romance felt really pale in comparison to the discussions the protagonists have.

If you’re looking for a book that is all mushy eyed romantic and set in Cuban sunsets or dancing to the music, this is not the book for you.

However, if you’re looking for a book of fiction which has a lot of interesting debates on subjects such as communism versus capitalism, love for your country versus love for your family, bravery versus pragmatic cowardice to protect your family, then this is the perfect book. If you’re looking to learn about the real Cuba, about it’s history , it’s politics, it’s people and their courage and positivity in the midst of ongoing tragedy, then this is the book for you.

I learnt so much from this book that I wasn’t aware of from watching Hollywood movies before. I’m not American and I’m not Cuban. I’m an Indian and yet while reading the book, I could draw so many similarities between the way of life of the Cubans and that of Indians. The strong sense of patriotism, family bonds and having fun with nothing, of the kind of food they eat and we eat.. it was all a surprising revelation!

When you’re a foreigner, you learn only about your own country’s history. You can learn about the history of other countries, probably if you are a historian or working in that line. I also find non fiction slightly boring. So books like these are like a rare jewel for a reader like me , because I get to learn so much about another country’s history and political climate, without falling asleep! It felt as if I was traveling to Cuba myself , which has made my desire to visit even greater now.

Although there are many supporting characters in the narration, the story revolves mainly around the passions and conversations of the following characters:

Elisa – Family and love

Pablo – The passionate revolutionary and Fidel’s friend

Marisol – The Cuban/American looking for answers to – who is she/where is home?

Luis – The modern day revolutionary

Of all the four characters, I think I related most with Elisa. I don’t see myself following someone and foregoing my family or the honor of my family. Yet, I can see myself falling in love with someone who isn’t approved of in my family. I can see myself taking small risks but eventually settling in for stability instead of living by idealism.

So overall, I enjoyed my trip to Cuba, didn’t fall in love with a man or a character in the book, but learned a lot and went sightseeing a lot too! Can’t wait to visit Cuba in person one day😊

Have you read this book or any other book featured in Cuba?

What did you think?

Would you choose your family over your country if the time came?

Are you a revolutionary or someone who likes to live in a bubble and just wishes for change?

Do you believed one can fall in love at first sight?

2 thoughts on “Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton – Book Thoughts

  1. i believe in attraction at first sight – haha, but it’s not the same is it?
    and yay, i don’t like non-fiction either. I prefer to learn by reading fiction, though if it’s something interesting enough, i go researching to make sure it’s true and not ‘fiction’, if you know what i mean.

    Liked by 1 person

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