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Rachel Kushner has written an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut. Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of Rachel Kushner has written an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut. Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the Americans tend their own fiefdom three hundred thousand acres of United Fruit Company sugarcane that surround their gated enclave. If the rural tropics are a child's dream-world, Everly and K.C. nevertheless have keen eyes for the indulgences and betrayals of grown-ups around them the mordant drinking and illicit loves, the race hierarchies, and violence. In Havana, a thousand kilometers and a world away from the American colony, a cabaret dancer meets a French agitator named Christian de La Mazire, whose seductive demeanor can't mask his shameful past. Together they become enmeshed in the brewing political underground. When Fidel and Raul Castro lead a revolt from the mountains above the cane plantation, torching the sugar and kidnapping a boat full of "yanqui" revelers, K.C. and Everly begin to discover the brutality that keeps the colony humming. If their parents manage to remain blissfully untouched by the forces of history, the children hear the whispers of what is to come. At the time, the urgent news was conveyed by telex. Kushner's first novel is a tour de force, haunting and compelling, with the urgency of a telex from a forgotten time and place.


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Rachel Kushner has written an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut. Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of Rachel Kushner has written an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut. Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the Americans tend their own fiefdom three hundred thousand acres of United Fruit Company sugarcane that surround their gated enclave. If the rural tropics are a child's dream-world, Everly and K.C. nevertheless have keen eyes for the indulgences and betrayals of grown-ups around them the mordant drinking and illicit loves, the race hierarchies, and violence. In Havana, a thousand kilometers and a world away from the American colony, a cabaret dancer meets a French agitator named Christian de La Mazire, whose seductive demeanor can't mask his shameful past. Together they become enmeshed in the brewing political underground. When Fidel and Raul Castro lead a revolt from the mountains above the cane plantation, torching the sugar and kidnapping a boat full of "yanqui" revelers, K.C. and Everly begin to discover the brutality that keeps the colony humming. If their parents manage to remain blissfully untouched by the forces of history, the children hear the whispers of what is to come. At the time, the urgent news was conveyed by telex. Kushner's first novel is a tour de force, haunting and compelling, with the urgency of a telex from a forgotten time and place.

30 review for Telex from Cuba

  1. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Privilege: A Theory Inspired by Rachel Kushner Rachel Kushner has done an outstanding job, presenting an informed, intriguing, concise but nuanced explanation for the Cuban Revolution in a highly accomplished work of fiction. Her story, although it references all of these, doesn’t focus on politics, or ideology, or personalities. The dominant theme is privilege and how it manifests itself in its practice and in its demise. And like most good literature, the importance of this theme and the Privilege: A Theory Inspired by Rachel Kushner Rachel Kushner has done an outstanding job, presenting an informed, intriguing, concise but nuanced explanation for the Cuban Revolution in a highly accomplished work of fiction. Her story, although it references all of these, doesn’t focus on politics, or ideology, or personalities. The dominant theme is privilege and how it manifests itself in its practice and in its demise. And like most good literature, the importance of this theme and the implicit analysis of it goes far beyond the specifics of Cuba and the United Fruit Company’s involvement in the country. Her story speaks for itself; but I would like to pay it a tribute by suggesting a more general interpretation. Privilege is a form of power that requires a a particular kind of community in which to be exercised. Privilege exists in a world which is defined by explicit social and economic commitments among identifiable individuals. In turn, the privileged community must exist within a larger society which does not share its privileges. Although the privileged community may act benignly, even charitably, toward the rest of its surrounding society, its loyalty is always to itself. Thus, the meaning of privilege only becomes clear when there is a conflict between the interests of the privileged community and society. Community members will always act in the interests of fellow members. This is the operational definition of privilege. Employees of multinational corporations are members of a privileged community. The degree of privilege enjoyed depends largely upon the importance of the company involved, not to the society in which it operates but rather to the government of that society which acts effectively as a business partner. This relationship between the multinational and the government may be obscured by the complex technical details of regulatory and other legal arrangements, but these are the substance of the contract negotiated between the two parties. And implicit in this contract is the degree of privilege enjoyed by multinational employees. The existence of privileged corporate communities is universal. They exist in socialist as well as capitalist countries, in social democracies and dictatorships, in religious as well as secular societies. In this sense at least the world is corporate. It is organised and managed by privileged communities which are in more or less continuous negotiation with national governments. For a variety of reasons - continuity of leadership, commercial incentive, the availability of legal and technical skills, the reliability of personal progression, among others - the corporate privileged corporate community has a permanent advantage in all negotiations with government. The members of the privileged community rarely see themselves as privileged. They may perceive that their role in society is, say, one of increasing commercial efficiency or technological innovation (as in modern America) or of bringing the infrastructure of civilisation to less developed societies (as in the now-defunct British Empire), or one of promoting what is, to them, a manifestly superior culture (as with many current Chinese companies). Regardless of the diversity of self-image adopted by members of the privileged community, however, their common factor is the dedication to the interests of the community, to which they look for approval and reward. Given its inherent negotiating superiority and internal stability, the only external requirement for the success of the privileged community is the reciprocal stability of the governmental system with which it negotiates. It is the system, not the individuals or the ideological commitments of parties or factions, which is critical. Everything remains negotiable as long as the system remains intact. In this, the interests of the privileged community and the government are exactly coincident. Consequently they will join forces whenever necessary to ensure that the ‘rules of the game’ remain unchanged. This can easily degenerate into overt corruption but need not for the arrangement to work ‘profitably’ for both parties. This situation involving the interests of the government and the privileged community is both the primary obstacle to radical governmental action, and the primary stimulus to revolutionary upheaval. The American and French Revolutions, the various European civil conflicts of the mid-nineteenth century, indeed the American Civil War, among others are commonplace examples of the phenomenon. When the bond between privileged communities and governments is inadequate to any longer control the rest of society, revolution becomes inevitable. Governmental systems collapse and privileged communities disperse, to be replaced by a new system and a new privileged community. As one literary revolutionary, Kurt Vonnegut, was fond of saying: “And so it goes.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    I wanted to read this one after enjoying The Flamethrowers last year. This one is very different - an impressively detailed recreation of life in Cuba in the 1950s as the revolution was brewing. It tells the stories of an odd mixture of characters, mostly American colonists. The most compelling voices are the children. Inevitably the book is a little uneven, but is well worth reading and an intriguing choice of subject for a first novel.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sonya

    It took me a very long time to get through this book. Normally, if I am struggling this much, I will move on; I'm not one to force myself through books, life is too short and there's too much to read. But I kept on with this, because I had a sense that Kushner had a particular vision for this -- something very different from what I, as a writer, would try to do; and I wanted to find out what it was, and how she was going to achieve it. Perhaps the most difficult thing about the novel's structure It took me a very long time to get through this book. Normally, if I am struggling this much, I will move on; I'm not one to force myself through books, life is too short and there's too much to read. But I kept on with this, because I had a sense that Kushner had a particular vision for this -- something very different from what I, as a writer, would try to do; and I wanted to find out what it was, and how she was going to achieve it. Perhaps the most difficult thing about the novel's structure and form, for a reader, is that there is no protagonist. It seems to me that Kushner's main character is a certain time and place; a world, not a person. I've read many novels that shift in point of view and yet still provide the reader with a single voice that dominates, even just slightly, to guide the reader through. Delillo's Underworld, for example; or Toni Morrison's A Mercy. In those instances, the character who speaks in first-person is usually the central character. In the case of Telex, the first-person narrator, KC Stites, is not at all the most compelling or dominant character. His I think is the weakest and least convincing voice; and he is the least interesting character. This is probably a central reason for why I found it hard to connect with the story. This world of Cuba-on-the-verge-of-revolution that Kushner is rendering is so complex, textured, tentacled; I think she really needed an anchoring voice amidst the many many voices she portrays here. She seems to not have been able to decide between KC Stites and Everly Lederer, whose voice starts and ends the novel. I think the book would have worked better if she'd committed to Everly -- an odd young girl at the time of the revolution who has a quirky curiosity and an interesting way of seeing things -- as the central voice. But this world she gives us is indeed fascinating. And the novel is smarter than I am, which is another reason I kept with it. On the sentence level, Kushner is masterful. And the sheer ambition of the book is very, very impressive. I have a sense that this book is probably a must-read 5-star choice if Castro/20th Century Cuban history is of interest to begin with; but for the general reader, a rough entry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I enjoyed reading about the 'drama' of the American families living in Cuba during the 1950's. I especially enjoyed the children. 3.5 rating -- (the Political parts of the book did not 'flow' as much for me as the 'personal-relationships' parts of the book did).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Pearl Ruled (p8) Daddy swore out loud and rushed to the garage where Hilton kept the company limousine, a shiny black Buick. We had two of them—Dynaflows, with the chromed, oval-shaped ventiports along the front fenders. Dynaflow is a brand of transmission that Buick developed. The car itself was a Buick Roadmaster. If you don't get details such as this right, I lose my sense that you're getting things important to the story, things invisible to me, correct; that means I get the sense that your Pearl Ruled (p8) Daddy swore out loud and rushed to the garage where Hilton kept the company limousine, a shiny black Buick. We had two of them—Dynaflows, with the chromed, oval-shaped ventiports along the front fenders. Dynaflow is a brand of transmission that Buick developed. The car itself was a Buick Roadmaster. If you don't get details such as this right, I lose my sense that you're getting things important to the story, things invisible to me, correct; that means I get the sense that your novel's world is built on misunderstandings and faulty assumptions. Fiction is made up. It's not history. A detail, a grace note like a thirteen-year-old boy telling the reader that his dad was getting out the Buick, is the world-building that deepens the experience of reading a novel. Unlike speculative fiction, authors can not wave their hands and say "it's my world, so that's how it is." This is January 1958, in Preston (now Guatemala), Cuba; a real place, in a time many now alive remember. Take care to research details or please don't deploy them. Getting something that your point-of-view character is absolutely sure to know *cold*—he's being set up as a bog-standard teen boy and, in 1958 in the US imperial zone, that meant he knew about cars or was...funny—wrong is a signal to my overbooked eyes that this isn't the read for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    This book was mesmerizing- beautifully written and truly evocative of the time and place of the story. Kushner paints an indelible picture of life in the United Fruit company's outpost in Cuba, her words creating a vivid portrait of a way of life in collapse. The characters are wonderfully drawn and Cuba itself acts as a character in the novel. Knowing that Kushner's mother lived through this tumultuous time in Cuba lends even greater reality to the narrative. I picked this book up and could This book was mesmerizing- beautifully written and truly evocative of the time and place of the story. Kushner paints an indelible picture of life in the United Fruit company's outpost in Cuba, her words creating a vivid portrait of a way of life in collapse. The characters are wonderfully drawn and Cuba itself acts as a character in the novel. Knowing that Kushner's mother lived through this tumultuous time in Cuba lends even greater reality to the narrative. I picked this book up and could barely stand to put it down. The book highlights the inequalities that helped lead to the revolution, and the sadness of people on both sides when it didn't all work out as planned. I highly recommend this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was well written book. It was a page turner for the first half, but then came to a screeching halt by the second half. I felt it was boring and anti-climactic. However, it was neat to read about this time period, and I have never read ANYTHING about the Cuban revolution. Although it is none of my business, I wonder if the insinuations about Raul and Fidel's sexuality are true.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Summer Smith

    With language as lush as the tropics itself, Kushner unfolds a political revolution and an embarrassing blotch on American history, described as temptingly as a bountiful buffet spread or a botanical garden run amok. Beginning the book through the eyes of children is a brilliant stroke. The author shows their naïve view of Cuba like someone born into a cult who doesn’t know anything of the outside world. Then we see American families moving to Cuba to improve their place in the class hierarchy, With language as lush as the tropics itself, Kushner unfolds a political revolution and an embarrassing blotch on American history, described as temptingly as a bountiful buffet spread or a botanical garden run amok. Beginning the book through the eyes of children is a brilliant stroke. The author shows their naïve view of Cuba like someone born into a cult who doesn’t know anything of the outside world. Then we see American families moving to Cuba to improve their place in the class hierarchy, not satisfied with degradation of middle management back in the States. We are shown the class system at work in Cuba – from the lowest echelon: the near-indentured slaves, the Jamaicans, working the cane fields. To the Cubans working the mine, the servants working in the homes of the white Americans, the Cuban landowners, the white American rednecks who oversee the cane-crushers in the field, to the nickel mine managers and on up to the Executives at the American-owned United Fruit Company. The fruit company doesn’t grow fruit anymore, just sugar cane, at the expense of the natives’ back-breaking labor. The Executives live in expansive houses with wrap-around porches and plush gardens. They have servants for gardening, cooking, chauffeuring, bartending, haggling in the market, and hosing down the house’s daily coat of Nickel factory residue. Father runs the Company with an iron fist – or rather he hires an iron fist – and Mother is a “liberal,” sympathetic to the poor individuals she comes across on her horseback riding excursions, but not necessarily of the plight of the cane-crushers in general. She wouldn’t speak ill of The Company. One tow-headed brother runs off to join the rebels, the other stays and is Mother’s golden boy. The revolutionary action picks up when we meet a French agitator, who will sell guns to all three of the warring sides, just to make sure his trip to Cuba is worth his while. Maziere has been around the world, been with every kind of woman and seen every kind of war. He’s a fascinating character – an antagonist that’s well-drawn. But the author indulges him with a little too much musing and slows the plot down. While his motives for joining the SS are fascinating, her historical research gets a little showy. We know what’s coming – Revolt! Kidnapping! Strafe! – and he’s a little too preoccupied with an aloof dancer from a Havana cabaret. And speaking of, why is she named Rachel K? Some of the American wives in TELEX FROM CUBA are beautiful, but it’s the faux zazou dancer Rachel K that gets the lustiest descriptions, the supplest breasts, and the attention of every important man in Cuba, it seems. It feels like narcissism on the part of the author. If the end seems unsatisfying, I guess it’s because there’s been no real resolution to the American relationship with Cuba. Life went on. Still, the characters, the scenes set at beachside barbecues and the American country club, the parties where Cuban presidents and the American businessmen mingle in finery without a hint of guilt, builds such a vivid picture. Reading this book is like watching a gorgeous movie, and then watching the film catch fire and burn up, broadcast on the big screen. When it fades to white, you want to start it again from the beginning, just to watch it burn.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeruen

    Rarely do I hate a book. I do admit that there are books that simply do not capture my interest, such as the previous book I have read. But this one is a little different. I checked this book out of the library a few months ago. It has been sitting on my drawer for quite a while now, and so I finally picked it up and started on it. It started quite ok, but it stayed flat. In short, it was quite painful to finish, although I didn't skip the chapters, and faithfully read until the end. When I Rarely do I hate a book. I do admit that there are books that simply do not capture my interest, such as the previous book I have read. But this one is a little different. I checked this book out of the library a few months ago. It has been sitting on my drawer for quite a while now, and so I finally picked it up and started on it. It started quite ok, but it stayed flat. In short, it was quite painful to finish, although I didn't skip the chapters, and faithfully read until the end. When I finished, I was more than happy to return it to the library. Now what could be wrong with this novel? Well, to start with, there was no character that seemed to be the protagonist. Everyone had a chapter or two of their own. None of the characters were likable. It seemed that everyone was an enemy: the Americans were enemies because they were sucking the life off Cuban land and living like they were having their own fiefdoms, or the Cuban rebels for torching the sugar plantations and planning and executing the revolution. Everyone seemed to be the enemy in this case. The narration also shifted constantly from an omniscient point of view, to the point of view of K.C. Stites, which is a character, not really major, but not really minor either. It was quite dizzying when the shifts occurred. There were so many characters, so many American families and other characters that I wished there was a genealogy chart in the beginning of the book, instead of a map of Cuba. It could have been a good historical novel, but the spotlight was shown on multiple people that it was quite hard to keep track. The book lacked a cohesive element, except that everything was just set in Cuba. If you like Cuban historical fiction, go ahead and read this. Otherwise, I say pick up something else.

  10. 4 out of 5

    El

    I recently read Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers and fell in love. I have to admit that if I just saw her literary debut, Telex from Cuba on the shelf without reading The Flamethrowers, I probably wouldn't have been interested in reading it. There's no good reason for that other than too many books and too little time, but I am glad that I loved The Flamethrowers so much that I gave this a try. It's just not as good. Which is strange to say because I'd say these books are almost identical in so I recently read Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers and fell in love. I have to admit that if I just saw her literary debut, Telex from Cuba on the shelf without reading The Flamethrowers, I probably wouldn't have been interested in reading it. There's no good reason for that other than too many books and too little time, but I am glad that I loved The Flamethrowers so much that I gave this a try. It's just not as good. Which is strange to say because I'd say these books are almost identical in so many ways. Kushner is a fantastic writer and I can only be eager to see what she does with that writing as time goes by. For a debut novel, Telex from Cuba is pretty impressive, both in style and in the story itself. Kushner is a young writer, yet she was able to capture life in Cuba in the 1950s so convincingly that if I didn't know better, I'd think she maybe had these experiences herself. Usually I'm pretty good at pinpointing what it is in a book that doesn't work for me, but unfortunately this time I'm having a hard time. I think overall this smelled too much like The Flamethrowers that I don't feel it was strong enough as its own book to be amazing. Maybe if I had read this one first I'd feel differently. I had difficulty with perspective in this novel, understanding whose point of view I was reading and their relationship to the other characters. There were a few different storylines running simultaneously, and bringing them all together in a nice bundle at the end felt a bit forced and tenuous. The strongest of all the stories is the one of Everly Lederer and her sisters, and that's the one that really should have made up this book, that was its strength. Still, this was good on it's own; it just didn't have the same impact on me that her second novel did. It's all about experiences and I could relate to The Flamethrowers in a way that I wasn't able to connect to this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Desta

    This was a book club pick from the finalists for the National Book Award. I really can't imagine why. While the descriptions of a pre-Castro Cuba were good and the story of the American families interesting, the whole mess with the dancer and her ties to the underworld were a major distraction. I still would like to know what point she was making in having the dancer's name be Rachel K. An author doesn't give her character her own name without some sort of reason and I could never find out what This was a book club pick from the finalists for the National Book Award. I really can't imagine why. While the descriptions of a pre-Castro Cuba were good and the story of the American families interesting, the whole mess with the dancer and her ties to the underworld were a major distraction. I still would like to know what point she was making in having the dancer's name be Rachel K. An author doesn't give her character her own name without some sort of reason and I could never find out what it was.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Wu

    I was going to start this review by saying that this novel gives the lie to anyone who says you can't teach people to write. Of course you can teach people to write. You can teach people to drive, which is a lot harder than writing. You can teach them to build bridges across impossible spaces, put up those massive, bristling skyscrapers in New York and Shanghai, get oil from the desert, make rockets and missiles and sell them to countries worse off than you so they can almost but not quite I was going to start this review by saying that this novel gives the lie to anyone who says you can't teach people to write. Of course you can teach people to write. You can teach people to drive, which is a lot harder than writing. You can teach them to build bridges across impossible spaces, put up those massive, bristling skyscrapers in New York and Shanghai, get oil from the desert, make rockets and missiles and sell them to countries worse off than you so they can almost but not quite destroy each other. You can teach people to enslave entire populations and justify it with plausible rhetoric that makes it look like you are a philanthropist and benefactor. So of course you can teach people to write. It's just sentences. One after another. We can't all write beautifully, I'll admit. Even after a lot of lessons at top schools like Berkeley and Columbia, where Rachel K learned to write, it takes a lot of patience and practice to write something like this: The rain let up, and wind was vacuuming out the last low, ragged clouds as La Maziere continued along the Malecon, looking back periodically to be sure no one was following him. The moon appeared, glowing like a quartered orange section that had been ever so lightly sucked, its flat edge thinned and translucent. He turned and headed up La Rampa, in the direction of the Tokio. He assumed she was still there, still in her zazou getup, her legs painted in prison chain-link, as smearable as when he'd last left his handprints on her soft and unathletic thighs, six months earlier. The references to the rain and the moon are fairly standard. You'll find paragraphs starting that way in every half-decent detective, romance or horror story. Rachel gives them a bit more intensity than many writers. There is some close observation there. Maybe the description of the moon is even a bit laboured. But I admire enormously the second paragraph. I admire it and it gives me great pleasure. I can read it again and again. She could have said something like "He assumed she was still there, still in her zazou getup, still exactly as her remembered her from six months earlier." But no, instead we get a vividly visual and tactile memory of what exactly it is that La Maziere remembers, her painted-on fishnet stockings, rendered with that wonderfully evocative word "smearable", her soft thighs, susceptible to his "handprints". What an image! There are many paragraphs like this in the novel, which give it a compelling forward momentum. I not only go back and saunter but I also race onward, eager for the next delicious frisson, which is at once sensual, intellectual and literary. The narrative sections depicting La Maziere are probably my favourite ones in the novel. I love the way Rachel is so cool and wise in showing us his brutish, predatory and often childish responses to women. As a narrator, she is aloof. But the insights she gives us into the way people think are astonishingly intimate. She does this without irony, or an irony so faint and empathic that it is ambivalent if it is there at all. La Maziere doubted going to Japan would convince him that femininity was the art of walking in stilettos, that it had much to do with poise or surfaces, makeup and neck ribbons. Whatever female essence was, he had caught it only fleetingly, a thing women reflected when they were least aware. He couldn't name this quality but suspected it had something to do with invisibility, a remainder whose very definition was predicated on his inability to see it. These insights lingered long in my imagination. Reading this novel was like being plunged into lots of different lives and experiencing strange situations with the freshness and immediacy of a child. It was revelatory and inspiring. It was healing. It made me happy. I was going to start this review this way but then I read through the comments on Goodreads and I thought, "Oh no, I'm wrong! Rachel can't write, after all. She has failed to please so many readers, many of whom struggled to finish the book." I learned of a new literary genre: "LOB - left on board". Catastrophe! Perhaps you can't teach writing, then. Those world-leading writing schools have failed us and failed Rachel K. What to do? Bin my review? Re-think my literary touchstones? Doubt my judgement? Throw in the towel? I don't know. Writing is hard. Writing is really hard. Teaching people to write must be even harder. All right, then. It's impossible.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl A

    Told mainly through the reminisces of K.C. Stites, son of the manager of United Fruit Company and Everly Lederer, daughter of the new manager of the US government owned nickel mining operation, this is a very lyrically written novel of privilege, proverty and politics in Cuba in the late 1950's. The author gives an excellent overview of the activities of the Batista and Prio governments of Cuba and the rise of the rebels in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic - not as a history lesson, but to Told mainly through the reminisces of K.C. Stites, son of the manager of United Fruit Company and Everly Lederer, daughter of the new manager of the US government owned nickel mining operation, this is a very lyrically written novel of privilege, proverty and politics in Cuba in the late 1950's. The author gives an excellent overview of the activities of the Batista and Prio governments of Cuba and the rise of the rebels in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic - not as a history lesson, but to set the climate of the time. The children's reminisces of the enclave of Preston tell a haunting tale of a false paradise, where the American men search for and exercise power, the woman create a small social hiearchy they would never have in the States and the children enjoy a life of both freedom and privilege. When the rebel brothers Fidel and Raul begin their efforts to take back the sugar plantation, everyone learns how fragile and separate their small world is. Rambling at times, and with odd inserts that seemingly add little to the story, this novel wasn't about the end (which we all know), but more about a lost time and place. Which was just as well, as I felt a little lost at the end myself.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    Goodreads messes me up when I try to change edition in the midst of writing a review. I just lost my review for this -- second time I've had this sort of thing happen to me! Bah! Anyway, not about to reconstruct entirely tonight, but this is a writer called to my attention by a Goodreads reader enthusiastic about her The Flamethrowers . Shortly thereafter, Telex became available as a special offer. Kushner does a commendable job of bringing together a large cast of characters, each distinctly Goodreads messes me up when I try to change edition in the midst of writing a review. I just lost my review for this -- second time I've had this sort of thing happen to me! Bah! Anyway, not about to reconstruct entirely tonight, but this is a writer called to my attention by a Goodreads reader enthusiastic about her The Flamethrowers . Shortly thereafter, Telex became available as a special offer. Kushner does a commendable job of bringing together a large cast of characters, each distinctly defined, although multitudinous enough to lose track of them, of expounding on historical fact and (political) perspective, and of providing lush description. A post-modern tone mixes fact and fiction to suggest the elusiveness of analyses and clear judgments of either people or events. Strikes me as an author to watch -- and to read. The wiki entry for her has links to a number of published reviews of her work.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    This was a fascinating fictional account of the events leading up to the overthrow of the Batista government by Fidel and Raul Castro, and the lives of working Americans in Cuba at that time. It provides a broad, even-handed perspective on the economic, cultural and political dimensions of the Cuban Revolution - plus a visceral sense of Cuban culture, geography and climate.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Constantine

    Have you ever read a book that you knew was technically very good but you still didn't like it very much? That was the experience I had while reading this book. Kushner's prose is stunning, and the backdrop of Cuba and the sugar plantations just before the revolution is one I've never read about before. Yet the book just left me cold. I've thought hard about this and the only thing I can come up with is that the story seemed like it was written in service of telling a history lesson, rather than Have you ever read a book that you knew was technically very good but you still didn't like it very much? That was the experience I had while reading this book. Kushner's prose is stunning, and the backdrop of Cuba and the sugar plantations just before the revolution is one I've never read about before. Yet the book just left me cold. I've thought hard about this and the only thing I can come up with is that the story seemed like it was written in service of telling a history lesson, rather than using a historical event as a backdrop for storytelling. There was a lot of detail given to political and business machinations that would inevitably make my eyelids droop. I think the most telling issue is the fact that I've been reading this book for nearly two weeks, and it's only about 300 pages long. That doesn't sound like much but for someone like me, who can finish a book like that in a few days if I am really into it, it seemed like an eternity. I finished it only out of a sense of obligation, not because I cared about the characters or how the story was going to finish. All that said, I hope my review does not dissuade others from reading this book, as they very well may enjoy it. I just didn't like it very much, which happens. No big deal.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    The Cuban revolution of the late 1950s as experienced by U.S. families living on the far eastern end of the island & managing U.S. corporate enterprises there--United Fruit's sugarcane operation & a nickel mine owned by the U.S. government. That is, the same people who are primly shocked at any other government's "socialistic" ownership of resources--this inconsistency isn't really taken up here, but many others are. I wasn't really interested in the secondary Rachel/La Maziere The Cuban revolution of the late 1950s as experienced by U.S. families living on the far eastern end of the island & managing U.S. corporate enterprises there--United Fruit's sugarcane operation & a nickel mine owned by the U.S. government. That is, the same people who are primly shocked at any other government's "socialistic" ownership of resources--this inconsistency isn't really taken up here, but many others are. I wasn't really interested in the secondary Rachel/La Maziere relationship, though the way they feed off both sides of the growing Cuban conflict is fascinating. What I really enjoy is the child's-eye view of neocolonial life in the American colony. Here the story really shines.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carl R.

    In Elmore Leonard's Cuba Libre, we learned a bit about the American takeover of Cuba under the pretext of saving its citizens from Spanish depredations (Sounds a little to me like the Russians saving the Ukrainians, but I guess that's another matter.) In Rachel Kushner's Telex From Cuba, we get a good look at the results of fifty-plus years of domination by United Fruit Company and other big American businesses. The companies have built ersatz American suburbs in the environs of the cane fields In Elmore Leonard's Cuba Libre, we learned a bit about the American takeover of Cuba under the pretext of saving its citizens from Spanish depredations (Sounds a little to me like the Russians saving the Ukrainians, but I guess that's another matter.) In Rachel Kushner's Telex From Cuba, we get a good look at the results of fifty-plus years of domination by United Fruit Company and other big American businesses. The companies have built ersatz American suburbs in the environs of the cane fields and nickel mines and other exploitative operations. In these little towns, the company families try to live pretty much the way their American counterparts do, albeit with a host of servants and gardeners and other amenities afforded them by living among a poverty-stricken populace. I often felt that I was in the midst of Mad Men or the pages of one of those expose novels like Peyton Place, with all the drinking and wife swapping behind a facade of respectable morality. A sad and fake place. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the island and around the world, people are plotting to toss the monopolies out. One dictator (Prio) has been ousted, the more famous Batista has taken over. The caribbean is rife with this sort of thing right now, with both the Dominican Republic and Haiti having undergone similar upheavals. We follow a French gentleman of fortune, who served the Nazi's in WWII, then is now playing the rebels in the hills against Batista as he trades arms and ammunition with both and attempts to simply end up on the winning side with a profit. He's in love with a whore who's doing the same thing, unbeknownst, of course. Then, we have Fidel and Raul and their minions running around the hills, setting fire to cane fields, wooing the workers. It's an exciting tale, full of history, and very educational as well as entertaining. Problem for me is that despite a lot of good writing: She'd had a dream abut a woman who walked through a room wearing nothing, just a towel held up to her front. What a lovely way to assert yourself was her dream sentiment, watching the woman stride through the room, her backside bare. Or speaking of mounted animal heads: It was moribund ornamentation … but also funny. As if the animals were standing behind plywood sets at the fair, putting their heads through circular holes. And an exquisite scene--as good as any I've read--about a man returning him after being held prisoner by the rebels, standing in his back yard watching and listening to his wife and family. Too long to quote hear, but top-notch. Problem is, though, that Kushner gives us just too many characters. We don't really know, on a feeling level, whose book this is. We skip from one to another like a stone splashing across a pool, seldom staying in one place long enough to settle down and get acquainted. Not that every character isn't nicely drawn and interesting. There's just no one to whom to give our heart and hate. There's a prologue and epilogue that preface and continue the story well beyond its natural boundaries. They provide little color and a great deal more superfluous detail. I suppose, once again, I'm going to be in the minority on this one, but I wish someone had played Maxwell Perkins with her and just blue penciled about twenty-five per cent of Telex.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    Rachel Kushner draws a very plausible portrait of the life and concerns of Americans and other expats in Cuba just prior to the revolution. Also included are portraits of urban night life and rebel camps. There are glimpses of the canasta playing presidents and the everyday life of United Fruit managers. These descriptions show incredible talent for a first time author. Kushner brings to life the events and how people got caught up in them. For instance, the Lederers arrive in Cuba for Mr. Rachel Kushner draws a very plausible portrait of the life and concerns of Americans and other expats in Cuba just prior to the revolution. Also included are portraits of urban night life and rebel camps. There are glimpses of the canasta playing presidents and the everyday life of United Fruit managers. These descriptions show incredible talent for a first time author. Kushner brings to life the events and how people got caught up in them. For instance, the Lederers arrive in Cuba for Mr. Lederer's new job with more interest in what they bought at Sears than Cuban politics. They are totally unaware that Batista had deposed Prio Socarras and never would have thought that from this there would be any ramifications for them. There are lots of characters (as there are in real life) for the author to manage. Each shows him or herself through description and action. The people and their interactions with each other are the strength of the book. Another strength is showing how the people respond the big events of the day. While you never meet Del, you know his family, and through his caring mother you understand that this teenager thought he was helping the poor by joining the revolution. You understand the boredom and rejection in Charmaigne Mackey's life and how she fixated on Lito Gonzales, never considering the reality of their "relationship" from his perspective. The portrait of the Allains grows throughout the book. You understand them and their world, even more so when Hatch's crime is revealed. These and many others are wonderfully told from both the child's eye and the third person narrator's. The mix of the first person and third person narration makes it harder for the reader to get oriented. This could have been a good technique, but with the number of characters and time line changes there needed to be more markers that a shift was occurring. Another weakness was rambling, examples being the Hemingway dialogs and the musings of La Maziere. Unsolved mysteries surround Rachel K. Why does the author give Rachel K. her own name? Towards the end, and out of the blue she has a last name, dropped without explanation. There is some foreshadowing for this, but not enough to make it really fit. The author ties other things up in the end, but just as in life, many answers are incomplete. The child narrator (now an adult) avoids meaningful discussion of these powerful events with his brother. Everly's trip to Cuba describes the current life of Willy, Pamela, Mr. Carrington and others. A phone call to an octogenarian provides a few tidbits. There are scrap books, photos and reference to news items. While it needs some tightening up, this is amazing for a first novel.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Telex From Cuba Rachel Kushner Historical Fiction 322 pages copyright: 2008 isbn: 1-4165-6103-x RACHEL KUSHNER HAS WRITTEN AN ASTONISHINGLY wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution—a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first Novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut. Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the Telex From Cuba Rachel Kushner Historical Fiction 322 pages copyright: 2008 isbn: 1-4165-6103-x RACHEL KUSHNER HAS WRITTEN AN ASTONISHINGLY wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution—a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first Novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut. Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the Americans tend their own fiefdom—three hundred thousand acres of United Fruit Company sugarcane that surround their gated enclave. If the rural tropics are a child's dream-world, Everly and K.C. nevertheless have keen eyes for the indulgences and betrayals of grown-ups around them—the mordant drinking and illicit loves, the race hierarchies and violence. In Havana, a thousand kilometers and a world away from the American colony, a caberet dancer meets a French agitator named Christian de La Maziθre, whose seductive demeanor can't mask his shameful past. Together they become enmeshed in the brewing political underground. When Fidel and Raϊl Castro lead a revolt from the mountains above the cane platation, torching the sugar and kidnapping a boat full of "yanqui" revelers, K.C. and Everly begin to discover the brutality that keeps the colony humming. If their parents manage to remain blissfully untouched by the forces of history, the children hear the whispers of what is to come. At the time, urgent news was conveyed by telex. Kushner's first novel is a tour de force, haunting and compelling, with the urgency of a telex from a forgotten time and place.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    An interesting read. I was just young enough at the time of the Revolution to not really have been aware of its having happened until the Bay of Pigs, and I was more than happy to have the opportunity to read more, without its having to be an exacting history. This is a work of fiction, but fact and fiction is seamlessly interwoven. Fidel and Raul Castro are figures at the margins. The white management is supposedly of the United Fruit Company which did exist, now Chiquita, and I feel certain An interesting read. I was just young enough at the time of the Revolution to not really have been aware of its having happened until the Bay of Pigs, and I was more than happy to have the opportunity to read more, without its having to be an exacting history. This is a work of fiction, but fact and fiction is seamlessly interwoven. Fidel and Raul Castro are figures at the margins. The white management is supposedly of the United Fruit Company which did exist, now Chiquita, and I feel certain that their wealthy lifestyle is accurately portrayed. One of the characters, La Mazierre, did exist, and his WWII background accurately given. His wikipedia article, however, does not include his post WWII activities as an arms dealer in the Carribean. So much for the facts. Two of the central characters are children, their parents upper management at United Fruit. We are treated to their observations of the contradiction between their parents lavish lifestyle and the abject poverty of the Cuban people. They also observe the racism of the whites against everyone not white, but also the Cubans against the Haitians and anyone else not Cuban. Another fascinating, but minor, character is an exotic dancer in Havana who finds it worthwhile to paint her legs so that she appears to be wearing fishnet stockings. This is a first novel, the writing style above average.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    It's never a good sign when you leave a book part-way through to read others, and return only to the first book to "get it out of the way," but that's exactly what happened for me with TELEX FROM CUBA. Technically, the writing is pleasurable, but the story is tedious and the structure is infuriatingly disjointed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Straw

    This was just what I needed during a hectic week. Fiction that was well written and interesting. The story of being white and corporate right before the revolution. Good story.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sentimental Surrealist

    This is, of course, the novel that started up the Rachel Kushner Hype Train, and got everyone talking about how she just might be the greatest living novelist. Now, I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I adored The Mars Room and very much enjoyed The Flamethrowers as well. What I'm saying, basically, is Kushner's got no shortage of talent, especially when it comes to peering into the heads of her characters and connecting them to bigger social movements. It's why she's so often compared to Don This is, of course, the novel that started up the Rachel Kushner Hype Train, and got everyone talking about how she just might be the greatest living novelist. Now, I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I adored The Mars Room and very much enjoyed The Flamethrowers as well. What I'm saying, basically, is Kushner's got no shortage of talent, especially when it comes to peering into the heads of her characters and connecting them to bigger social movements. It's why she's so often compared to Don DeLillo – Kushner makes you feel what it means to live inside a system, rather than just describe how the system operates. All that said, I don’t think she had quite gotten there with this first one, although the reason for my dissatisfaction now that I’ve finished the book isn’t the same as it was when I started. See, this book takes on the lives of the various Americans who had settled in Cuba before Castro took power. The first chapter, told from the perspective of K.C. Stiles, son of a United Fruit bigwig, seemed to cast this as a loss-of-innocence story. Which to me was like, ok, but some innocence is lost at a higher price than others; the rich Americans always have an America to go back to, the Cubans, not so much. Now that I’ve finished the book, I think Kushner recognized this. Her huge social milieu may have gotten lost in their high-society cosplay, but Kushner herself doesn’t. She’s got enough sense of history and writerly empathy to recognize that the Cubans were caught in the crossfire between ideology and profit, and she asks crucial questions of whether life was better after the revolution. I wish she’d spotlighted a few more Cubans in this novel, though. A couple of them rotate in and out, including Fidel and Raoul Castro, and two are very prominent (more on cabaret dancer Rachel K later) but she could’ve done more here. That said, my main issue with this novel is a structural/narrative one. See, there are two big threads running through this novel. The one concerns itself with the Cuban social milieu; little touches of Tolstoy run through here, as Kushner does a wonderful job of pinpointing each character’s anxieties. I especially enjoyed the bookish Everly Lederer, who chafes against the constraints her society puts on her, and Blythe Carrington, whose husband cheats on her and who as a result who has just stopped giving a fuck. The other takes on a more spy-thriller bent. A French officer who collaborated with the Nazis now seeks to stir up shit in Cuba; when he’s not fomenting revolution, he’s hanging out at a strip club with one Rachel K. Rachel K., incidentally, is one of those characters who leaps off the page, giving vivid life to many of the novel’s main themes, among them deception, false nostalgia, and exploitation. Meanwhile, our collaborator is one of those villains that’s fun to [i]hate[/i]. Now, I like these threads individually, and their intersection point (K.C.’s brother joining the Revolution) is quite well-chosen. I object to it more from a balance level. The novel’s first half focuses mostly on the expats, while the second zooms in on the revolution. I feel like this was done on purpose, to illustrate how swiftly the guns broke up society. Yet what comes of it is Kushner setting a lot in motion that she can’t quite resolve, precisely because boom, revolution, and next thing you know, all these threads just dissipate. Kushner throws a quick where-are-they-now chapter right at the end, but I just don’t think it’s enough to settle things up. This isn’t nearly as infuriating in terms of compelling-but-unresolved character arcs as, I don’t know, the new Tarantino movie, but it just seems a little sloppy to me, and “sloppy” isn’t usually a word I’d apply to Kushner’s novels. I get it, life is random and the revolution was random and just all means of randomness, but there’s a way to do it and still provide us readers with that sweet sweet narrative satisfaction, and I don’t quite get that from this novel. Still, it’s easy to see why Kushner caught fire. Not just because her next two novels are great, but because those, like this, show the sort of big-canvas ambition that I just love from a good novel. Don’t get me wrong, there’s all sorts of room in this world for smaller, quieter novels, but it’s also a blast to see a novelist take a big leap, even if they don’t quite make the landing. So while I can’t recommend this as highly as the next two, I still have to applaud Kushner.

  25. 4 out of 5

    LindaJ^

    I started this book and The Flamethrowers at the same time. I quickly finished Flamethrowers but took much longer with Telex, mostly because of format (hardcover v. kindle). The style in both is similar, but much better developed, I thought, in Flamethrowers. Telex takes us to 1950's Cuba and into the lives of real and imaginary characters. Probably the majority of the book, including the beginning and end, are narrated by K.C., the young teenage son of the manager of the sugar plantation. His I started this book and The Flamethrowers at the same time. I quickly finished Flamethrowers but took much longer with Telex, mostly because of format (hardcover v. kindle). The style in both is similar, but much better developed, I thought, in Flamethrowers. Telex takes us to 1950's Cuba and into the lives of real and imaginary characters. Probably the majority of the book, including the beginning and end, are narrated by K.C., the young teenage son of the manager of the sugar plantation. His view of what's happening is often then filled in by certain of the participants. For example, his father is having an affair with a dancer at a club in Havanna. K.C. does not know this but he does encounter his father with her over one holiday. The dancer - named Rachel K - is quite a complex character and has a fairly major part. She seems to sleep with many of the players, including Batista. Another somewhat younger narrator is the tomboy daughter of one of the nickel mine administrators. Through her we are introduced to quite a few of the families associated with the mine, some of who tell us more about themselves. They are an interesting bunch -- affairs, alcoholics, hidden agendas, hidden pasts. One of the most interesting things, though, is the look at Cuba at the time of the revolution. The author tells about the pressure points that aligned to permit overthrow. I enjoyed the book a lot.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ruthiella

    Because I loved Kushner’s second novel, The Flame Throwers, I long wanted to read her debut Telex from Cuba. Why it took me four years? So many books, so little time. I am very glad, however, that I finally made the time. Simply put, I am a fan of Kushner’s writing style. Telex from Cuba is similar to her second effort in many ways. I guess one can consider her novels to be historical fiction, though the second half of the 20th century doesn’t seem that long ago to me. Telex from Cuba is set in Because I loved Kushner’s second novel, The Flame Throwers, I long wanted to read her debut Telex from Cuba. Why it took me four years? So many books, so little time. I am very glad, however, that I finally made the time. Simply put, I am a fan of Kushner’s writing style. Telex from Cuba is similar to her second effort in many ways. I guess one can consider her novels to be historical fiction, though the second half of the 20th century doesn’t seem that long ago to me. Telex from Cuba is set in Cuba in the 1950s running all the way up to the successful revolution under Castro in 1959. There are three main close third person narrations: two are from American children who live in American enclaves because their fathers work for U.S. concerns on the island. The intricacies of the American class system and how it operated among expatriates, was particularly well depicted I thought. The third narrative is from a French arms dealer with a Nazi past who has plenty of business in Cuba as well as in the neighboring DR and Haiti. This wasn’t quite as focused as The Flame Throwers. I think the multiple narratives and characters blurred the narrative somewhat, but still it was very enjoyable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dorothyanne Brown

    Picked up this book from the library to get some atmosphere for a book I am writing that involves Cuba. Perhaps it's just me, but I couldn't finish it. I loved the description of the life in Cuba during the Batista years, the feeling of excitement around the coming of Castro (and unease), but the book suffers from a lack of involvement with the characters. Halfway through I didn't feel any interest in any of the characters and was instead confused about who was where and who was who. I'd be hard Picked up this book from the library to get some atmosphere for a book I am writing that involves Cuba. Perhaps it's just me, but I couldn't finish it. I loved the description of the life in Cuba during the Batista years, the feeling of excitement around the coming of Castro (and unease), but the book suffers from a lack of involvement with the characters. Halfway through I didn't feel any interest in any of the characters and was instead confused about who was where and who was who. I'd be hard pressed to remember any of their names. I do remember the descriptions of the shops and arrivals in Havana and the travel back to the United Fruit company town...but everyone is venal and small and self-obsessed and drunk all the time. Depressing even if true. I craved one character with redeeming social value. Back to the library, unfinished...

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Addiego

    I read her later take on this same subject, The Strange Case of Rachel K, before this, which made part of this feel like Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say. Both novels are pretty amazing. The weird details in Telex are at times poetic, more often a bit horrifying, always vivid. The perspectives of these main characters, United Fruit Company executives' children, is jarring in their generally racist acceptance of the oppression of their workers. A painterly touch is given to the I read her later take on this same subject, The Strange Case of Rachel K, before this, which made part of this feel like Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say. Both novels are pretty amazing. The weird details in Telex are at times poetic, more often a bit horrifying, always vivid. The perspectives of these main characters, United Fruit Company executives' children, is jarring in their generally racist acceptance of the oppression of their workers. A painterly touch is given to the exotic place, while sinister and famous real-life characters (the Castro brothers, Hemingway, Batista, Desi Arnaz) interact with her fictitious people. Rachel K, the stripper/prostitute with the painted-on fishnet leg art, has some special connection to the author and is sort of based on a real person. A very engaging and impressionistic read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    I've tried to read this book a couple of times. At page 50, I realized I just didn't care about the characters, so I quit reading it for good. A much better book about the time period is "Waiting for Snow in Havana".

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I'm really giving it a 2.5 star review, but since you can't do halves and this book really got on my nerves at times, I rounded down. Okay, so, the breakdown, starting with the pros: -Interesting concept full of fascinating depictions of Cuba in the 1950s and all the political and social turmoil that was going on there. -The American kid protagonists are fairly well done and offer a certain "innocence lost" perspective on everything that was going on at that time, which contrasts nicely with the I'm really giving it a 2.5 star review, but since you can't do halves and this book really got on my nerves at times, I rounded down. Okay, so, the breakdown, starting with the pros: -Interesting concept full of fascinating depictions of Cuba in the 1950s and all the political and social turmoil that was going on there. -The American kid protagonists are fairly well done and offer a certain "innocence lost" perspective on everything that was going on at that time, which contrasts nicely with the "head in the sand" perspective that the American adult protagonists had. -The French agitator was pretty good as well, and my personal favorite because of the controlled chaos he added to events. Also he seemed like the most complex character out of all of them, which is a note that leads me to the cons. Cons: -The vast majority of these characters were painfully flat. There was barely any development at all! It was like the writer didn't even try. -The celebrity cameos were incredibly awkward. Celebrities start showing up in the beginning, mostly Cuban politicians and revolutionaries, which makes sense given the type of book this. And then all of a sudden Hemingway is drinking at a bar with the French agitator. Why? Not really sure. The writer tried to attach meaning to it, but it felt forced and like it got tagged on after the fact, when really she just wanted to include a cameo Hemmingway appearance. Sarte makes a slightly less awkward but equally odd appearance in a fantasy as well. It ended up being very distracting, which leads me to the biggest con of them all... -WHY ON EARTH DID RACHEL KUSHNER NAME THE HOT ZAZOU BURLESQUE DANCER CHARACTER RACHEL K?!?!?! Oh my god that was SO OBNOXIOUS. I have never seen a more transparently narcissistic move on a writer's part. It'd be one thing if she made this Rachel K character less than ideal; it'd still be fairly narcissistic, but at least it'd be self deprecating narcissism. But nope, Rachel K is the stunning maybe Gypsy maybe Jewish dancer with big full lips (whose description sounds eerily similar to the picture of Rachel Kushner on the book jacket, by the way) who is the mistress to everyone important in Cuba. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. *SPOILERS* Rachel K is the mysterious mistress to Prio, the president before Batista, Batista himself, the French agitator, and the father of one of the American kids. She also meets with the Castro brothers and Fidel and Raul use her frequently throughout the rebellion to find out about Batista and to convince Prio to keep bankrolling them. She ends up coming across as Rachel Kushner's fantasy about what she personally wished she could be in an alternate life, and whether or not that was her intention is irrelevant, because it would come across that way no matter what because she gave her the exact same name as herself. Very, very stupid move in my opinion. As a writer myself, I'd never do that in one of my stories, even if I did model a character after my fantasy self, because it's so off-putting to at least some readers, if not the majority. *SPOILER* Oh, and did I mention that Rachel K doesn't even die? She comes out of the rebellion unscathed, and even stays in Cuba because Fidel has offered her a special place in post-revolution Cuba. So on top of her being this fantasy femme fatale, she isn't even hurt! She's protected! Rachel Kushner loves Rachel K so much that she won't even make her suffer except for a teeny tiny heartbreak when the French agitator leaves Cuba and she decides to stay, and even that's not all that painful in the grand scheme of things considering she chooses to stay behind and you spend much of the novel thinking that she's going to be killed for her work in the rebellion. All in all, while some parts of this book are very well done, the majority of it is not, and I'd recommend a different book if you're interested in reading about 1950s Cuba, preferably one that isn't quite such a narcissistic indulgence on the writer's part.

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