Book Advent – day 18 – a trip to Hungary

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Book Advent brings  you a rather interesting and unusual treat today – Before reading today’s book, I confess to not having read much Hungarian based literature and certainly had not read much of pre-1914 Hungary. So, two good reasons to include this on the book trail – my first trail in a new country and one that I cannot wait to take you on –

The story is a trilogy and all are included in one volume due to the publishers foresight  – you will want to read the whole lot so why not have them in one amazing volume.

They draw you in to a world of decadence, incredible scenery and well developed characters. Come right this way and join me in a trip to  –

 Early 1900s Hungary and Romania  –

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They Were Counted is the story of 2 cousins – Count Balint Abady and Count Laszlo Gyeroffy. As members of the aristocracy, they are priveleged although they take two paths in life – Balint is  a politician and Lazlo becomes a drunkard. Life at the Budapest court may be opulent but behind the dazzling backdrop there are dangers and dark corners lurking….

The awful boldness  of this adventure had unexpectedly  serious consequences

Dazzling  descriptions of the opulence of the Hungarian court immerse you in the sights and sounds and fragrant smells of the time. Oh the music, the music you can hear sing from the pages –

She sang beautifully, with the ease of a well trained voice, which, if not exceptionally powerful, was rich and warm especially in the lower register; and from the moment she started it was clear that she was entirely absorbed by the music  

Contrast this with the growing unrest on the political stage and it soon becomes clear that this privileged world can and will not last –

‘These duels are absurd,’ he said. ‘All duels are absurd! What would happen if someone really got angry? All that ceremonial! Such rubbish! Nothing more than games for children. If I wanted to kill someone I would shot them without a word.’

Miklos Banffy
Miklos Banffy – image courtesy of Wikipedia

This trilogy is important and particularly interesting due to the fact that the author  himself belonged to a family of note in Hungary – his family castle of Bonchida was partly destroyed by the Germans in 1944. Bonchida appears in the novels disguised as Denestornya.

Bonchida castle
Bonchida castle  – image courtesy of Wikipedia

– image courtesy of Wikipedia

– image courtesy of Wikipedia

Everyone mingled together, the richest beside the poorest, the lavish beside the meagre

The books were published in Hungarian between 1934 and 1940 and it is a particular delight that his daughter was one of the translators of his work into English.

These books are a story of two sides of a country, a world so far removed to any we see today and one which not many people will know about. The political scene may have been one of turmoil and the parties opulent but the true story is one of Hungarian society and the Hungarian language both of which can appear isolated and closed off from the rest of the world

With the passing years he became more and more aware of the gulf that divided him from his cousins, of the financial and social differences that set him apart.

Take a trip in an old fashioned carriage and recreate the opulence and the struggle of times gone by.

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Your guide is someone who was ideally placed to show you the true face of Hungary and its inner workings.

The clatter of wagons which had become so deafening during the last half-hour, began to die away behind him, leaving only the slight tinkling of the harness bells and the soft hiss of the wheels on the ground.

Written on the cover is the phrase – love, sex, money, power, beauty and the pathos of a society which cannot prevent its own destruction

They were counted is long and turbulent journey into a closed and secret society but it makes for one hell of a thrilling ride.

Book Advent – Day 9 and 10

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Now we are off to the Philippines today, well you might think there is no surprise now – we’re off to the Philippines. You would be wrong however as you have not been to the country like this before –

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The story in a  nutshell – 

A missionary priest called Julian Tremayne is working in the Philippines. He spends time in prison for the murder of a local military man and then himself dies mysteriously.

Thirty years after his death he is a revered man and people are calling for him to be made a saint. He is now almost a cult-like figure. But is everything as it seems?

Philip Seward is the man sent out on behalf of Julian’s family to investigate.

What he enters is a world of trouble.

Setting of the Philippines – 

Philip enters the underbelly of Filipino society. He is the ‘innocent foreigner abroad’ and the novel is an exploration of what he finds and what he thinks about events and people he encounters. This is an interesting angle and one which adds much to the detail  of the book – the innocent foreigner abroad on an investigative journey is ripe for finding detail and experiences not found elsewhere.

The Breath of Night is an extraordinary and vivid account of the wealth, extreme poverty, corruption and oppression of a country and its people.

It is a tale of beauty and horror interwoven with the insightful yet disturbing letters of Julian who writes homes to his family and via his letters reveals the changes of a country in turmoil, his faith, and of even the beauty of a country that he starts to see change before his very eyes. Like the picture of Dorian Gray, the beautiful colours and the paint flakes leaving behind something quite changed –

He describes where he is in – Manila –

image courtesy of Wikipedia
image courtesy of Wikipedia

Two rows of Spanish colonial houses all cracked white stucco and fretwork shutters, half hidden by thick-boughed frangipani and acacia trees, plus two small general stores, occupy the north and south. In the centre are a statue of the national hero, Jose Rizal, four weather-stone benches and a dried up water trough.

The Rizal Statue courtesy of Wikipedia
The Rizal Statue courtesy of Wikipedia

Calm and picturesque soon becomes dangerous quite soon and the tone of his letters changes in even describing to his parents the views and the weather never mind the political transformation of the country –

Roofs, doors, shutters,  had been flung about the square. The old colonial houses had had their balconies and their verandas torn off, and stucco facades shattered by the uprooted trees.  At the centre, the Rizal statue had been turned into a  modernist war memorial.

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Breath of Night is a very sensitive interpretation of religious feelings and the interplay of reality and fiction. it shows evocative sort of beauty against a backdrop of lust and heat. You will be more than transported by this novel –  you will feel the heat on your face and the beads of perspiration through sweltering temperatures and deep rooted fear. Julian himself starts to question the very reason he is there in the first place – his faith –

More than ever before I’ve been forced to question the nature of my role. On the one hand, the brutal repression while I was away shows that, if nothing else, my presence offers  some protection against the excesses of the regime.

But he fears that his words are acting as  barrier between the people and their god and that he is effectively doing them a disservice. He starts to question his own faith –

For too long the Church has comforted – some would say anaesthetised- the poor with the claim that they’ll receive their reward in heaven.

Beautifully written yet confrontational

Powerful yet captures you in its ever- tightening grip

This is a trip to the Philippines with a difference and one you will never forget.

Revolt in Pakistan

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Set in the fictional Pakistani village of Gulistan, with an appearance of Liverpool in England, this is a story about human relationships and the complicated threads of love, loyalty and sacrifice that keep families together and sadly, also apart.

It’s a multi layered novel with three sisters of a family dealing with their grown up children and their children’s relationships which often go against their wishes, their sense of marrying the right person – either caste or religion – and  the resulting problems. A male character chastises a female –

I’m just reminding you about social propriety; that women in our culture do not go around kissing men or touching them physically unless they are very young or married to them or blood sisters! You are none of these!

 

The stunning backdrop may be fictional but it is I’m sure representative of a typical Pakistani village community  –

In Gulistan village, the morning sun was high up over the sugarcane fields

..dusty path……the humble local rikshaws..the rural landscape…

 

The houses in Gulistan
The houses in Gulistan

The description of homes – rich versus poor –  is a key indicator of status and pride –

..the rooftop terrace with its elegant alcoves, wall niches, marble floor and rows of earthenware potted petunias and geraniums in full bloom, propped against the iron railings.

compared to – the potter’s rooftop terrace

….used for staking pots and portable beds, was brick-lined. The other half had  a small heap of coal and a pile of chopped wood to use for the rooftop chappati tandoor. No plants or flowering bushes, or marble floor. Just three old rickety portable beds, one with a missing leg.

A woman in Gulistan
A woman in Gulistan

You would think that such a subject particularly dealing with Pakistani women, muslim women, would be a serious and difficult subject to write about and even though the blurb on the back read well, I did wonder whether I would relate to any of the women in the book and understand their lives and concerns.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. QS has such a skill as a writer) I will certainly be looking at more of her work) that she has not only introduced me to some of the most funny and warm characters that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I have not read many stories set in Pakistan and don’t even pretend to know anything about the culture but I will definitely be visiting the country again if this book is anything to go by. To meet and understand a man such as this –

 

A lost traveller wedged between two lands – that of his homeland and America yet belonging to neither; unable to come to terms with his parents’ world and running away from the other that had been increasingly hostile to him since the awful events of 9/11

 

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Where Revolt particularly excels in my view is how it gently introduces the relationships between locals and outsiders – particularly the hilarious portrayal of the strange white woman or ‘Goorie’ who is received as something of an oddity  – shock and disbelief surround her wherever she goes. Goorie is the local word for  white woman and many words are introduced in the original language which gives a powerful authentic feel to the novel as a whole. (there is a glossary at the end for any other Goories such as myself hehe)

 

Begum won’t be pleased if I keep bringing visitors to the hevali (mansion). She says that it’s not a zoo,or that the goorie is not an animal on exhibition for us all to ogle.

 

I laughed at many points of this story – the characters are so well developed that by the end I felt as if I knew each of them very well – especially the local gossip. And they were as warming as i would expect them to be if I visited Gulistan myself for real. I want to eat chappati and ooh patesas….

As I closed the book, I swear I could hear the women still chattering away, their animated voices tickling my ears long after I’d finished reading.

The Midnight Swimmer – London, Berlin, Havana, Washington

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Place in time – Early 1960s

Setting – London, Berlin, Washington and Havana

Where fact meets fiction – at the heart of the Cuban missile crisis, the Profumo Affair, the French Connection and precisely why Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK.

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This is a clever tour of  behind the scenes of the diplomatic and spy worlds at a time in history – leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis – where tensions are heightened and no-one or nothing is as it seems.

‘Don’t play me for a fool. Who are you? I’m sure I’ve seen you before.’

‘You’re confusing me with someone else.’

‘Maybe that’s because you take so many different forms.’

Fact and fiction merge seamlessly together – our character Catesby who is somewhat of a reluctant spy – almost everything he does, he questions the morality of it and the rights and wrongs of further actions. He has rather an interesting background for a spy – working class, grammar school and then Cambridge before entering the SIS. So, he set up as not quite the outsider anyore but certainly not ‘ one of the boys’ either.

Catesby’s  boss, Henry Bone, is introduced early on as he disposes of someone is no longer useful. Further actions and events cause us to wonder who is the hunter and who is the hunter – which must have been the real state of affairs at a time where the Americans and Russian were playing a game of ‘who will blink first’ with the future of humanity. The tension of possible nuclear warfare is lurking…

Where then do you think the Russian are going to put their missiles?

Catesby then told him the name of the island

Bone laughed.

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At one point, Wilson has Catesby ruminate on the idea that what “made the Cold War so dangerous was that the Russians were playing chess and the Americans poker.’ Many of the British officials seem to mistrust the Americans and vice versa. The British are scared of the fact that it will be the British Isles which would be blown off the map if weapons were used. The reader is left wondering just what the real behind the scenes level of trust, mistrust and double dealing really was like. As Catesby himself thinks –

 “The most interesting aspect of international relations wasn’t the conflict between enemies, but the conflicts between allies.”

Coming up to the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, this seems to me to be the perfect time to take another and thrilling look at the dealings that went on behind the scenes of what led to the Cuban Missile crisis and to take a look at the man himself .

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The murky and shady dealings of the spy setting goes hand in hand with that of the real historical setting and combines for an explosive and fascinating mix. The fictional characters in The Midnight Swimmer become involved with scandal and intrigue on every level – rubbing shoulders with as diverse characters as Harold Macmillan and Che Guevara

 

Dear President Kennedy , the revoultion is inevitable and unstoppable, but while you are waiting I hope you enjoy these cigars

Che

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Take a shady but thrilling ride along the corridors of the smooth stone walls of La Cabaña of Che Guevara

 

The ornate embassies of Georgetown, Washington

 

The fishing villages of Norfolk

 

Quite a ride.

Afterworld by Lois Walden

Afterworld by Lois Walden
Afterworld by Lois Walden

A journey through the sugarcane and swamps of Louisiana

Careful there’s a storm coming…

And it’s a strong and violent wind blowing thorough the generations

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The winds of desire, guilt, identity and family history swirl around each other. Suddenly there is a blast of debauchery and we are swept along with the current to witness more secrets unravelling.

The sugar fields offer little protection from the gales and actually are the settings for the most extreme debauchery and eccentric revelations

Take my hand, hold on tight, hold your breath as we are about to venture deep into the Afterworld –

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Afterworld

When I created you and I did create you, I dreamed you into form. My dream was your awakening. I chose your family, chose your fate, gave you the life that you call ‘my life’. When you call it ‘my life’, it is as if you believe  there is some personal purpose to your  residency of earth. Your ego is my greatest frustration. if only you understood that I dreamed you up in the first place,maybe you would be less resistant during those final moments when I am finished dreaming you.

This is Afterworld – a place where humans are not in control and where a greater force both holds them together and pushes them away. It is the first voice in the book as this is the narrator and overall observer. It is where we find the characters who have passed over to the other side observing those back on earth. An interesting way of finding out more about these characters, for characters they are, and for observing, like a greater being, the complexities and make up of the human psyche

The Afterworld follows the religious path of a holy book – 

Book 1 – The book of revelations

Book 2 – The book of celebration

Book 3 – End of days

Book 4 – Amen

This is a story not only of people but of a family –  a very dysfunctional one caught up in a hurricane – not only that of Katrina which blows them all apart but a hurricane in every sense of the word.

The family

The Duvalier family is made up of 4 generations and they each tell their story in their own quirky and highly individual voice – they are eccentric and each has their own personal demons. They have their own goals and thoughts and many many secrets they keep hidden from each other and even sometimes from themselves –

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Each character has his voice heard in a single chapter. Many come back, others have less to say but the reader listens to them all – the turbulent marriage of Charlotte and Winston and Charlotte’s fate in the Afterworld, Theodore, Stephen, Doreen. All names you will get to know – interesting in their own right but oh so fascinating when looking at their interwoven path in life.

The setting

It is June. It is hot. It is humid. It is Louisiana

The swamps of Lousiana
The swamps of Louisiana

Sugar

The most surprising and unusual part of the book is the ‘voice’ given to the swamp lands and the sugar cane fields which make up the setting and the backdrop for the Duvalier story –

Sugar cane
An important character in the Duvalier story

You and your Jesuit priests brought me to Louisiana in the 1750s, without asking my permission. You don’t have my permission! You don’t own me. You need me. 

Tellin’ your children stories about generations and generations of honourable sugar men and sugar women who came before you. You don’t tell the truth! This land was stolen! 

You bring that boy back here! Do you hear what I’m sayin’? I want Theodore! He is the only one in your family who respects and adores me. When he walks through my fields, he is in awe of my beauty. Bring that boy back and all will be forgiven. Or get yourself ready for all hell to break loose! 

Then the storm hits, Hurricane Katrina hits uncovering all of the secrets, corruption and deviance that has managed, up until now to hang by the tip of its old and frail fingertips to the brink of reality.

A tour around Lousiana
Dare you enter..

I cannot tell you more for telling you more would give up too many secrets. You will have to travel around the sugar fields for yourself. Take care out there for what you will discover may not be what you think.

This tour around Louisiana will haunt you, it will tease you and shock you. But it is a tour that you will never ever forget.

For a chance to win a copy of Afterworld, stop by the Book Trail tomorrow.

Paris Requiem book launch

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It’s the book launch this evening of Lisa Appignanesi’s novel Paris Requiem and so I thought it perfect timing to showcase this book, book trail style. The book launch is taking place at the Freud Museum in London – how very apt for the backdrop and for the atmosphere of the foreboding but ornate building. I have visited this museum before and now having read the book and putting the two together – well it gives me a few literary thrills without even being there. Official site of this Polish born author – http://www.lisaappignanesi.com/ who has lived and worked in Montreal – a city I know well so this was another reason why I was so keen to read this book. She is also an  author with a Canadian link, an interest in France and an interest in a true political scandal I first came across at university – Allow me to accompany you through her Paris …..

Paris 1899

Back Camera

From the very first paragraph we are thrust into the dirty, gritty, raw side of the city –

“Paris sizzled with the spectres of past and future danger. The Gare Saint-Lazare was a hellhole. The air burned. Engines hissed. smoke billowed. Whistles shrieked. Trains clanged and clattered like weary mechanical beasts. Everywhere was heat and noise and the crush of humanity.”

It  is a superbly well-written psychological mystery with the social ills and political intrigue of the time adding a depth and breadth that add to the overall plot –

 

James Norton is sent by his mother from the US to Paris to bring home his wayward brother Raphael and sister Ellie. When he arrives however, Raphael’s lover, Olympe has died under mysterious circumstances and the sister, Ellie, is ill, unable to leave her room. James helps his brother investigate what really happened to Olympe who was a Jewish actress, whilst at the same time helping his sister recover.

Back Camera

The fact that the family is jewish is central to the plot since the Paris of 1899 was a hot bed of anti-semitism. The Dreyfus Affair was at its peak –

 

This was a political scandal which divided France – a French officer of Jewish descent was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having given French military secrets to the German embassy in Paris. When evidence later came to light that he may be innocent, this was not the end of his nightmare and the Dreyfus affair became the modern and universal symbol of injustice and more importantly a significant role was said to be played by the press and public opinion.

 

Flags and banners billowed above massed heads. Bullhorns blared a torrent of words he couldn’t quite make out. But he could read the banners –

 

‘Death to the traitor Dreyfus, The German’s lackey.’ ‘No to the re-trial.’ ‘Long live the French Army.’

 

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Politics and plot aside, Paris Requiem introduces us to another side of Paris –  the colourful world of the theatre compared to the clinical atmosphere of the hospitals. We attend sumptuous dinner parties of the wealthy and influential and then are plunged into the stark horror of the asylum and what goes on there. Maybe not the Paris we would want to see on a tour there ourselves but how amazing it is to be transported there from the safety of our armchair:

 

Here at the Salpêtrière, our signifant number of Jews present us with a unique opportunity to investigate a hereditary pool – not only through our inmates, but their relations.

 

The Vaudeville, curving letters on the iron-columned portico announced. It was the theatre at which Olympe had last played.

 

It was the risque story of a triangle….., their joint passion fed by romantic poetry…

 

Back Camera

Lisa Appignanesi has written an account of a powerful exploration of a family’s story, hidden secrets, Jewish people in France and a brother’s search for the truth. It is also an insight into the role and situation of women at the time.

 

The novel is a thriller concoction with a generous helping of intrigue, a measure of political scandal, a sprinkling of dubious characters, mixed up with grimy Paris streets, asylum horrors and one man’s quest to find out the truth.

 

Enjoy the ride into the dark side of Paris.

Back Camera

To visit the site of the book launch  – http://www.freud.org.uk/ 

To enjoy the nicer and more tasty side of the Vaudeville environment – http://www.vaudevilleparis.com/en/ 

And once again – be sure to visit  http://www.lisaappignanesi.com/

 

Under the Sun – in Japan

A story about a captive and his captor against a background of war, cultural differences and an underlying sense of humanity.
A story about a captive and his captor against a background of war, cultural differences and an underlying sense of humanity.

Under the Sun is set in the closing stages of World War Two in the South Pacific. Flight Lieutenant Edward Strickland is a young RAF Spitfire pilot flying sorties over the Carolines and their outlying atolls. On a dawn patrol he is shot down attacking a submarine and ends up on a remote island occupied by a small Japanese garrison, that has remained undetected throughout the war. The garrison’s commander Captain Tadashi Hayama brutally interrogates his captive and a battle of wills develops between the two men. The scene is set for a contest where there will only be one victor. But events take an unexpected turn and the island becomes, for a while, a kind of Eden. The war is a distant memory that has no relevance to the rhythms and echoes of island life. Yet beyond its shores danger lurks and Japan’s capitulation after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leads to a climactic end that shatters the idyll forever.

 

 

Japan is a country that has long fascinated me and I still that one day I will get there. I was very pleased therefore to be given this book for a review and ‘the booktrail treatment.’

 

This was not only a book based in Japan but one which captivates the story of an extraordinary relationship between a captive and his captor – a Spitfire pilot and a Samurai commander.

 

This is an engaging tale – a meeting of two souls played out against an isolated island background during WW2. The war and the island are also characters in the novel however in the ways they highlight the plight and situation of the two men:

 

Strickland surveyed his surroundings and looking up, he saw the mountain rise above the green mantle of forest.  – page 79

 

Theirs is a relationship which goes through many stages – it may start off as a simple captor – captive one but is soon found to be one built on mutual mistrust leavened with soldierly respect, through companionship, to the eventual life-affirming understanding and friendship.

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The language of this book is quite lyrical in its descriptions of issues of war and the nature of war, of faith and the underlying human spirit. How the bud of humanity can flourish in the most inhospitable soil conditions:

 

Whether you are inside the punishment box or here on the island, you are still under my command.  I have simply decided to grant you your freedom. – page 65

 

Sometimes it is the language which gives the story its most powerful thread – the simple, lyrical and soft language is at odds with its subject matter.

 

The forest was quiet. Only the cicadas stirred occasionally in the stillness. their rhythmic music was like a narcotic and soon the pilot was asleep – page 77

 

The Japanese language plays a part too in the novel when Strickland realises he knows nothing of the language and culture of Japan yet knows about its weapons and its planes. Hayama even teaches him a little Japanese and jokes that he will be learning it in no time. Hayama also teaches him about their culture – how to pour Sake for example and in a little ceremony, in such a unique situation, it is quite surreal and poignant to see the importance of pride and culture in this situation.

It is not despite the subject matter,a story of war but rather a story of two very different men from very different backgrounds and cultures in one war time situation. It is an exploration of their minds and who and what they are and it is this I believe that the author most shines due to the research he must have done to achieve this.

There was one line in the book that sums up war, the spirit of man and the finality of death where man and his environment become one:

 

Man, for all his toil and struggle, was merely dust – page 56

 

We are all essentially the same –  thrown together in extreme circumstances. The power of what we do and who we are whilst on this earth is what ‘Under the Sun’ is all about and what it illustrates so well.

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba on a train

A journey through Cuba
A journey through Cuba

This is a book trail via a train journey and what a thrilling ride it is –

It has all the ingredients of a good travel guide and an insight into not only cuban society and history but also the Spanish language spoken in Cuba. Language, travel, and humorous moments featured in one book. What more could I ask for?

 

Peter Millar, a journalist starts his trail from the the crumbling town of Havana on his way to the now infamous town of Guantanamo. One of his first observations on Havana is:

“I stroll out into the warm sticky afternoon heat to reacquaint myself with a city that is forever being built and forever falling down.”

This journey is one of sights,sounds, smells and tastes as the author takes us around the bars, clubs, museums and streets of the various places he stops off at. Due to the extreme heat, sweat and a chicken peeing on him, it may not be a journey you would want to take yourself but the beaten of this book is that you can get the best of it whilst sitting in your comfy armchair.

Even if you are not interested primarily in the politics or history of Cuba then you will at least be familiar  with some of the more Western images of it  – Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, the cigars, the rum and of course Buena Vista Social Club. This book does give a brief history lesson but it is much more than this – the history is merely a backdrop to a much more fascinating insight into a misunderstood country and its people.

 

It also shows us that sometimes our perceived perceptions of something are not always the truth or that the hidden story is often the most interesting. There are a lot of ‘well I didn’t know that moments as well about other Cuban facts such as the origins of the Hershey train – the same Hershey of the chocolate kisses fame.

Although never having been to Cuba, I identified with a lot of his travelling experiences and the comedy characters you can meet along the way- the woman dressed in a tent trying to smuggle banana milkshake, the frustrated train travellers, the over excited tour guide and of course the drunken stranger who insists on giving advice or in this case singing Phil Collins songs.

A particular strength of the novel to me was the linguistic story  – Cuba is Cuba which comes to mean so many different things as the book progresses. There are many linguistic insights – such as how the Cubans don’t seem to like the letter ‘s’ or to pronounce things in the same way that they do in the Spanish spoken in Spain.

 

And there’s the humour, the music, the different way of booking a train ticket, of queuing and  finding a place to stay.

 

Everywhere is different but in a lot of ways everywhere is the same – the characters, the pride, their instinct to survive and the love they have for their country and their traditions. I would have liked to have met these people and have a chance to talk to them too – like many of the people I met on my own travels, they are what I remember and who made the trip what it was.

The end of the book – when the author reaches Guantanamo is interesting as it is where we learn of the name behind the headlines and what it means to ordinary Cubans. I don’t want to give anything away but it a very interesting last chapter of the journey.

 

If you want to learn a little about the history and culture of Cuba then read this book. If you just want to go on an amazing journey across the island on a series of trains which are just as much a character in the story as are the humans, then read this book. If you are want to find out about something you think you know already, then read this book.

 

The title may say ‘Slow Train to Guantanamo’ but it is anything but slow. If anything it’s too short and only a snap shot of one man’s journey in a long line of trains.  It leaves you with the feeling you’re right there with the author himself. You feel as if you’ve stepped back in time and then at the end are thrust back into the present with the immortal line someone shouts whilst travelling with a mobile phone

 

‘Hiya, I’m on the train’

 

This book may be about a country stuck in the past but it really shows snippets of a country slowly changing and moving towards the future.

Let’s hope the trains get there too.

 

Cuba is Cuba after all.