AUTHOR: Rosanna Ley
PUBLICATION DATE: May 19, 2016
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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 shoulderto 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?
Intriguing from the start, Last Dance in Havana is a captivating novel from Rosanna Ley, with beautiful, evocative writing and an engaging blend of two timelines from Bristol, England in 2012 to Havana, Cuba in 1958. This novel was really exquisitely told and within the first few chapters, I was engrossed with the story and caring for the characters.
In Havana, 1958, we meet sixteen year old Elisa. When asked for a dance by Duardo, she is completely swept off her feet and they fall desperately in love with each other. But life has other ideas for the two of them and their romance is cut short. Elisa moves to England.
In Bristol, 2012, we meet Grace, who is an extremely conflicted character. Having a very uneasy relationship with her father, she’s also torn between two men – her husband, Robbie, who is eager for them to start a family, and their best friend Theo, who she feels like she’s falling in love with.
Last Dance in Havana is both tenderly and honestly written and the tone to the book was just perfect. Rosanna’s style of writing made this book easy to dip in and out but only a matter of minutes after putting the book down, I had to pick it up again because I was really heavily in anticipation of discovering the secrets the characters were keeping, the difficult choices they were going to make and the satisfying endings to their stories.
I liked both Elisa and Grace’s characters for different reasons. Elisa was caring and considerate and spent a lot of time putting other people first. I found her relationship with Philip fascinating and their companionship felt real in the way that not all partners are madly in love with each other. Yet it was love that really crafted Elisa as a character because deep down it felt like that was what she craved the most and that was what she was missing as she remembered Duardo so fondly.
Grace’s story was driven by her choices and as she was torn between two men, I have to admit I really didn’t know which way she was going to turn. Despite her getting caught up in feelings for someone other than her husband, I never disliked her character. She was only human, after all, and I felt for her and as the reader we’re really allowed, quite closely, to follow the conflicting emotions Grace has and I was on tenterhooks waiting to see how things would turn out for her character.
Although I loved following both Elisa and Grace, Philip’s story was also one that I really responded too. It’s very early on in the book where you are aware that he is relying on alcohol far too often but oh I really cared for his character. I felt desperately sad for him at times – sad that he couldn’t even begin to reconnect with his daughter and sad that alcohol felt like the only option for him to deal with life. Rosanna wrote this aspect to the story sensitively but realistically too and I was very much drawn in to Philip’s story as it blended seamlessly into both Elisa and Grace’s stories too.
One thing that I absolutely adored about this novel was how Rosanna set the scene, in particular in Havana which was described sublimely. The balmy sunny conditions, the mood of the dance, the bars and the music and ultimately the feelings – everything was crafted so beautifully and I could really get a feel for the story because I bought into Rosanna’s every word. The setting and the charming writing makes Last Dance in Havana an ideal read for the summer, with a tale of dance, addiction and forbidden love waiting to unfold in front of you. This is a book I will miss now it’s over, although I am looking forward to reading Rosanna’s previous novels, most of which are already sat on my bookshelf waiting for me.