Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Historical Fiction, 361 pages, published in 2018

Synopsis: After her grandmother’s death, Marisol travels to Cuba in order to find a place to spread her ashes. Her grandmother, Elisa, had to flee Cube in 1959 and was never able to return. Told in alternating chapters, this is the story of Elisa, a sugar heiress in Cuba in 1959, and Marisol, trying to learn more about her grandmother in 2017.

Spoiler Free Review:

I want to start off by saying that I rarely read historical fiction. I had just heard so many good things about this book, and I want to read outside of my favorite genres more, so I picked this book up. Unfortunately, the story did not agree with me.

I didn’t like or enjoy reading about either POV character, so it was kind of hard for me to get into. I liked Elisa better, but only by a little bit. I thought both of their romances were based on absolutely nothing. These are the types of romantic relationships I think of when I think of historical fiction. This preconceived notion I have is what keeps me away from historical fiction in the first place, and then to see it happen twice in one book is a little off putting for me. They both happened very fast and based on either a few days spent together or some letters. It just felt so unrealistic, especially in the current timeline, and it was definitely one of the biggest things that prevented me from liking this book.

I thought the ending, especially in Marisol’s story, was so different from the rest of the book. It kind of just felt leisurely at the beginning because she’s getting to know Cuba and enjoying herself, but the end picked up in a way that didn’t fit with the rest of the book for me. I also felt like the big reveals at the end were predictable. I don’t think predictability is a bad thing, but I wasn’t shocked by these revelations and I don’t think they added much to the story.

One interesting thing that happens a few times throughout this book is when the past and present timelines mirror each other. I think it was a cool way to show how even though their stories are different, Elisa and Marisol are similar.

As with The Island of Sea Women, which I recently reviewed, I appreciated this book more for the history I learned rather than the story. I knew embarrassingly little about Cuba going into this book, and I still can’t say I know a lot, but I definitely learned quite a bit. I think this is the reason I like Elisa’s story just a little bit better. I got to see what was happening and how it impacted people at the time it was happening.

Overall, I didn’t love or hate this book. It definitely has me taking a break from historical fiction though. I appreciate the history of it even if I couldn’t enjoy the characters.

3 thoughts on “Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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