Thursday, January 29, 2009

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner (a review)

Telex from Cuba: A Novel
3.5 out of 5: Telex from Cuba is a fictional portrait of 1950s, pre-Castro Cuba. The point of view constantly shifts among a large cast of characters, many of whom are Americans living in Cuba and working for American companies engaged in the explotation of Cuba's abundant natural and human resources.

Kushner's lush, detailed descriptions of the Cuban landscape--natural, political, and social--reveal her deep knowledge of this particular place and time. This well-researched and lovingly depicted setting is this book's real strength. Kushner captures the spirit of pre-revolutionary Cuba perhaps better than any other novel ever has.

Unfortunately, the other aspects of this novel--including the characterization and plot development--suffer in comparison. Telex from Cuba is more of a fictionalized history than a fully developed novel. The characters are fairly generic types that remain static and underdeveloped. The plot revolving around the primary characters is fairly directionless to start with but is made even more so by a distracting subplot about a weapons dealer and a high-class prostitute that never blends into the overall narrative structure of the book. Telex from Cuba transports readers to an exotic locale but fails to deliver an interesting story once there.

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