Very glad to get this one out of the way. Gutiérrez has great ability as a writer and has created some very memorable vignettes of characters and situations in mid-1990s Havana. Unfortunately, his obsession with sex and his lavish descriptions of pretty much every variation on that theme make this a book I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.
The book is made up of three parts although there’s no logic to them as they resemble each other almost entirely. Each part is made up of short stories that focus on a character, an event or some aspect of Pedro Juan’s struggle to survive as an ex-journalist in the communist heyday of Havana. I greatly appreciated this insider’s view of that period of history. This is an important view to give the world.
Occasionally, there’s a story that doesn’t involve sex. When this happens, he’s a joy to read. He has a great ability to conjour up an entire character and their surroundings in only a few sentences. I kept wanting to know more about these characters. A narrative would have helped, but each story is followed by another and there are very few characters indeed who appear in more than one.
Omnipresent though, is Pedro Juan himself, and his desperate need to fulfil his body’s sexual urges make up much of the book. This is a great shame and displays a great immaturity I think. He might has well have written a book littered with references to people desperately trying to fulfil their craving for food or water or air or any of the other things that, in moderation, are perfectly well and good. His obsession with sex, like any obsession, reveals an imbalance that I don’t think I can ascribe only to the character. From what I’ve read about him, the author was just as obsessed.
Unless you too have an obsession with sex, there are many many paragraphs in this novel you can skip right over. In fact, you probably shouldn’t bother with it at all.
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | StyleRead more about how I come up with my ratings