2 November 2016
Book Review: Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley
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?"
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I adore books set in far flung places that I may never get the chance to visit, and for me, Cuba is one of those places. I have read a couple of books set here previously, but when I was offered the chance to review Rosanna Ley's latest book Last Dance in Havana I definitely jumped at the chance. I adored the cover, which just screamed Cuba to me, and the story sounded wonderful too. Somehow I hadn't read anything by Rosanna before, so I went into this hoping it wold be brilliant, and I was right!
The book has 2 parts. There's the modern story, which is the tale of Grace. She has a troubled relationship with her dad but she does have a fairly lose relationship with her step-mother. As her marriage starts to crumble, Grace wonders where she can turn, and it ends up being to family friend Theo. The other half of the story is set in 1958, in Cuba with Elisa and Duardo. The pair are young, but are sure they are in love, and are enjoying the start of a beautiful relationship. But when tragedy befalls them, Elisa flees to Britain, leaving her home and heritage behind. She can't leave behind her love for her homeland, but how is she going to be able to carry on?
This was a captivating story on so many levels. I was completely transfixed by Elisa's story, what happened to her and Duardo that forced the pair apart, and how she coped alone when she arrived in England. Her childhood in Cuba wasn't perfect, but she loved it, and the close relationship she had forged with Duardo. The pair dancing, it all sounded wonderful. We also get to meet Elisa as an adult, see how her broken relationship and subsequent move to England has affected her, and how her loyalty is stopping her from fulfilling her own dreams.
The other half of the story follows Grace. I really found myself struggling to like this character - in fact, I quite vehemently disliked her throughout the whole book. Yes, she had an awful childhood, with the death of her own mother, but the way she deals with her other problems later in her life leads a lot to be desired. However, I want to complement Rosanna's writing here because it was that that made me hate this character! I didn't like Grace's actions at all, and it made me very uncomfortable how she behaved. However, I liked the drama of it and the fact that I didn't know how it was going to end up.
The setting of Cuba for some of the book was wonderful, and you can tell Rosanna Ley has really done her research when it comes to Havana and all things Cuban. I loved her vivid descriptions of everything from the beautiful old buildings, to the people and the general feel of everything, in particular towards the end of the book. There is a lot of emotion in this book, a lot of what could have been, and of following your own destiny rather than the one you think has been set out for you. This was a very well written and enjoyable book from the beginning. I loved the love stories within, the many different relationships explored, and the way the Cuban politics, history and passion is described is brilliant to read. I am very much looking forward to reading more Rosanna Ley because this was just a wonder to read. Highly recommended!