Books

by Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herrings Press, August 2013, $16.99

Revolution is central to Libby Fischer Hellmann’s Havana Lost. Filled with rousing sociopolitical themes illustrated by the failing fortunes of one particular family, this many-layered adventure begins with a simple love story: Luis Perez loves Francesca Pacelli. However, the year is 1958, the place is Havana, Cuba, and Fidel Castro’s forces are preparing for the final assault against Juan Batista, the mafia-friendly (and US-backed) dictator. Since Luis is one of Castro’s revolutionaries, and Francesca is the daughter of a mafia-connected hotel owner, their relationship appears doomed. Several tortures, murders, and one kidnapping later, the novel jumps to 1989, when Luis is fighting in the Southern African country of Angola, while Francesca—now living in Chicago and unhappily married to one of her father’s mob goons—has given birth to Luis’ son. There are enough romantic entanglements in Havana Lost to provide plots for a dozen daytime television dramas, but as with all Hellmann’s novels, Havana Lost is lifted above the usual Romeo-and-Juliet tearjerker by its sweeping overview of modern history. Hellmann has a deft hand at this kind of writing. In the acclaimed A Bitter Veil she tackled the Iranian Revolution; in Set the Night on Fire, she documented our own turbulent ’60s and ’70s. In Havana Lost, as in her previous works, she reveals both sides of an era’s political upheaval, allowing us to make up our own minds as to who was villain and who was victim. This is smart writing, done in accomplished style by an author who never talks down to her readers, and not only delivers an engrossing read, but gives us an insightful history lesson, too.

Betty Webb

Revolution is central to Libby Fischer Hellmann’s Havana Lost. Filled with rousing sociopolitical themes illustrated by the failing fortunes of one particular family, this many-layered adventure begins with a simple love story: Luis Perez loves Francesca Pacelli. However, the year is 1958, the place is Havana, Cuba, and Fidel Castro’s forces are preparing for the final assault against Juan Batista, the mafia-friendly (and US-backed) dictator. Since Luis is one of Castro’s revolutionaries, and Francesca is the daughter of a mafia-connected hotel owner, their relationship appears doomed. Several tortures, murders, and one kidnapping later, the novel jumps to 1989, when Luis is fighting in the Southern African country of Angola, while Francesca—now living in Chicago and unhappily married to one of her father’s mob goons—has given birth to Luis’ son. There are enough romantic entanglements in Havana Lost to provide plots for a dozen daytime television dramas, but as with all Hellmann’s novels, Havana Lost is lifted above the usual Romeo-and-Juliet tearjerker by its sweeping overview of modern history. Hellmann has a deft hand at this kind of writing. In the acclaimed A Bitter Veil she tackled the Iranian Revolution; in Set the Night on Fire, she documented our own turbulent ’60s and ’70s. In Havana Lost, as in her previous works, she reveals both sides of an era’s political upheaval, allowing us to make up our own minds as to who was villain and who was victim. This is smart writing, done in accomplished style by an author who never talks down to her readers, and not only delivers an engrossing read, but gives us an insightful history lesson, too.

Teri Duerr
3293

by Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herrings Press, August 2013, $16.99

Hellmann
August 2013
havana-lost
16.99
The Red Herrings Press