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At my work they have a scheme were by people who have finished with a book, bring it in and exchange it for another. Recently I exchanged one of my Donna Leon novels recently for this novel. I fancied a change of author and a different type of novel so I picked up this one, in the hope I would enjoy it and if I didn't what had I lost.
==About the author:==
Julie Ellis was born in Columbus in America in 1933 and died in February 2006 of a stroke. In a long and successful career she wrote 57 novels. Writing under two other names Susan Marino and Susan Marvin. The book am I reviewing was one of her last written published after her death in 2007.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Chris Sanchez is a newly qualified Paediatrician in a local Hospital in Havana, Cuba in 1994. He is becoming frustrated by the lack of money for drugs to help cure his young patients and the local people including himself poverty. The very controlling State kept telling the World about its great Hospitals and Education system but Chris is finding change and improvement very slow and frustrating, as all he wanted to do is make people better but with such limited resources.
Chris believes in the revolution in which his Grandfather participated in will eventually benefit all the Cuban people. However, he meets a pretty young nurse Eve Santiago and he falls in love with her. Despite their love she wants to escape to a better life she has heard about in America, but the authorities punish anyone caught trying to leave the island but she wants to take this gamble for a new life with Chris.
This is the big difference between them and as the relationship deepens they both realise that they will need to make an important decision that will ultimately affect both of their lives. Having seen the luxury the tourists enjoy and the only way they can exist currently is with the help of the 'black market', which is both lucrative but very dangerous.
==My thoughts on the book:==
Overall I did enjoy reading this interesting piece of fiction. It was in a sense a love story about two young and the ambitious of the young, who find love at a desperate time. I wouldn't usually enjoy a love story, but I did because I found it interesting to learn more about Cuba and the way some of its people are forced to live.
I had never read anything from this author before this, so I didn't really know what to expect when I picked up the novel. Probably if I had realised it was a love story I would never have read it, but I'm glad I did as I did enjoy it and now I feel I have a little more understanding about Castro's country.
I suppose when I was reading the short summary about the book on the back cover I was looking for something a bit different. Feeling a little bored with the usual crime thrillers that I usually read. So I was keen to try a different style of author and broaden my knowledge at the same time. This with a young person's struggle in a country I know little about seemed ideal.
For me the author was very good at expressing Eva and Chris's differing ideologies, expectations and dreams. She wrote from both of their perspectives and I liked the way by doing this you could see each of their concerns about their relationship and the situation they found themselves in. She was good at taping into their thoughts and I found this approach very interesting and enjoyable.
The basic storyline was so simple but effective because it dealt with not only love but also a country that was totally different in belief to our own view of life. The author was very good at describing the place but better still at describing the hardships the people had to put up with. Even if I found the story a little slow and dull at times I did find a lot of interest in the country itself and the author through her words seemed to understand the young's plight.
As I say it was quite slow paced as novels go, but I always hoped it must be leading somewhere, but I was never really sure where. All the excitement was in the final few chapters when lots did happen in a very short space of time. It was a stark change from all the slow build up that preceded it.
In truth I think the ending should have been expanded. It seemed far to condensed and rushed, I would like to see a lot more detail and thought put into this part, as the idea was excellent. As it was certainly exciting and the author should have extended it and kept all the suspense going.
After the quick but exciting conclusion I thought this novel definitely required an epilogue, as I would have loved to know what happened next. The author could even in my opinion written a follow up novel on this too. But that may have been what she was planning had she not passed away soon after completing this one.
I found the author's writing style to be easy to read and relaxed. It however for me did lack depth in her descriptions but at least made up for it with getting the novels main characters emotions and feelings spot on and as a result it was easy to relate to them.
These two lead characters Chris and Eve were both well written for. They were interesting with their different view points but desperate not to lose the others love at the same time, this the author really got across well to the reader. As a result of this you were never sure if one of them might do something that would change this equilibrium and test their love to its limits.
Of the other characters in the book the most important in role were Maria and Jorge. There were interesting as they interacted closely with Chris and Eve, but they had good personalities in their own right. Maybe again a bit more flesh would have been good on these characters as I liked the little I knew about them. As what they said and did had a big bearing on their friends.
I found the book always interesting without being scintillating, mainly learning a little about the Cuban lifestyle and the poverty there and how the people did there best to deal and work through it as best they could. Without that I think I would not have continued to read it, as I am not usually a fan of love stories.
The books length was far too short for me. I would have liked a lot more detail on the exciting conclusion to the novel. Which surprised me given the slow patient build up in the story to then rush it and in my view ruin it. I also felt more detailed description of conditions in Cuba would have drawn the reader in as I felt I only had a tantalising taste of it.
The author I do believe was very good at building suspense into her writing. As because of the dangers to these lovers, they were prepared to use the black market. This brought with it the feeling that it was just a matter of time until the authorities discovered them and then their fate would be unknown. The final chapters were full of suspense as you hoped whatever desperate path they took it would ultimately bring them back together, when the odds were stacked against them.
This book is only currently available in hardback format.
I certainly think this piece of fiction is worth a read. Although the storyline itself is slow and dull it is a love story with a twist or two and it is unconventional. I did enjoy learning a little bit more about Cuba and how the people manage in live with their poverty. I certainly will be trying another novel from this author, but I think I will need to go to the library next time to find one.
Price: £2.69 (Used) - £18.99 (New)
Publisher: Severn House
About the author: www.julieellis.net
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
@CPTDANIELS June 2009.