I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. Thank you to Quercus and the author.
About the book
Published: 19th May 2016 (Quercus)
Cuba, 1958. Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he’s the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro’s army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her?
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?
From bestselling author Rosanna Ley comes an exotic tale of love, family and friendship set between England and Cuba.
I loved this book, the opening is beautifully captivating with the heat, sounds and passion of Havana, Cuba in 1957. We are introduced to a 15 year old Elisa who convinces her cousin to take her dancing at La Cueva where she meets Duardo, the love of her life.
We are then transported to Bristol, England in 2012 and introduced to Grace, Elisa’s step-daughter. Grace’s mother died when she was young. Philip and Elisa met in the early 1980’s when Grace started Spanish lessons with Elisa. Now Grace is in her late 30’s and and continues to blame her father for her mother’s death therefore they have a strained, cold relationship. Philip is an alcoholic which puts even more strain on his relationship with his daughter.
The narrative switches between the characters, time periods and location. I’m not really familiar with the history of Cuba but the turmoil and the troubles for those in Cuba are evident through Ley’s narrative. There are a number of story lines throughout this book that all interlink through Elisa as we have her past with Duardo in Cuba which still fills her with sorrow and her present in Bristol with Philip and Grace. Grace is currently going through a difficult time whereby Robbie, her husband, wants a baby when she doesn’t and she is in love with Theo, their best friend.
Whilst the two settings are very different, both Elise and Grace need to figure out what they want from their respective lives – Grace is married to the wrong person but cannot bear to hurt him by following what her heart is telling her and Elise married Philip due to a mutual friendship and loneliness – very different to the passion and love that she shared with Duardo.
Last Dance in Havana is exceptionally well written and the imagery in this book is wonderful, I felt like I was in Cuba seeing it’s vibrancy, hearing the bustling, musical sounds and feeling the heat. I thoroughly enjoyed the shifts in time periods and learning more about the Cuban culture.
This is the first book I have read of Ley’s and I look forward to reading more.
Quercus Summer Reading Book Club
As part of the #QuercusSummer book club; Quercus want to see as many summery shots as possible however when I started reading this, the rain was pouring down so I had to escape into the book for summer vibes! This is definitely a book to be reading in the sun, unfortunately I wasn’t so lucky with the great British weather!
Campaign Information (from Quercus website)
In June, July and August 150 libraries around the UK will be promoting our fantastic summer paperback programme to thousands of readers by creating summer reading displays, using materials we have supplied, and championing seven of our books. Each library will receive a pack that contains posters, shelf talkers, bookmarks, an ideas document and a set of the seven summer reads.
The seven books featured in the campaign are:
- The Girl in the Spider’s Web
- Kitchens of the Great Midwest
- Last Dance in Havana
- Florence Grace
- Love Notes for Freddie
- Asking For It
- The Tenderness of Wolves 10th Anniversary
You can find our more information on the Quercus Summer Reading Book Club on their website
About the author
Rosanna Ley has worked as a creative writing tutor for over 15 years. Affiliated to several colleges and universities in England, she also runs her own writing courses in the UK and abroad. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in creative writing for personal development in order to support this. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Italy and Spain and whilst not teaching or writing she mentors and appraises the work of new writers. Rosanna has had numerous articles and short stories published in UK magazines, and 12 novels of contemporary fiction published in the U.K, Germany, Greece and the U.S.A under a pseudonym. Her books are inspired by the culture and landscapes of Italy, Sicily and the Canary Islands and feature strong female voices from the past and present, along with an intense undercurrent of mystery and romance. Rosanna spends some time every year travelling around Europe looking for writing inspiration and more tranquil settings for writing holidays. She loves cliff walking and her favourite writing place is somewhere with a sea view. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives with her artist husband in a Victorian cottage in West Dorset by the sea.