Daily Archives: July 23, 2008

The Island of Eternal Love

The visions conjured from the old woman’s tale – the evocation of a Havana filled with music and life – had left her with an odd sensation of dislocation. She felt like one of those saints that can be in two places at the same time. -from The Island of Eternal Love, page 10-

And that is exactly how I felt reading Daina Chaviano’s novel The Island of Eternal Love – dislocated. The novel is set in Miami and its protagonist is a young woman named Cecelia. Cecelia meets an old woman in a bar who begins to tell her strange tales about Cuba. Night after night, Cecelia returns to the bar to hear more of the woman’s stories. In between nights at the bar, Cecelia (who is a writer) also begins to track a mysterious tale about a ghost house.

I read to page 110 of this 313 page novel before setting it aside. The book did not capture me at all – instead it floated from one image to the next, never connecting the dots. The chapters can only be described as ephemeral – fleeting and strangely unsatisfying. In fairness to Chaviano, this novel is a translation and the stilted language (especially the dialogue) seemed to be related to translation difficulties. I have a feeling that I would have enjoyed the writing more had I been able to read the book in its original Spanish language.

M.E. Collins in a  Chicago Sun Times review wrote:

[The book] … weaves a sometimes disjointed but finally gratifying tale of loss and love across more than a century of Cuba’s past. Chaviano tenders intriguing love stories that illuminate “the symbolic union of the three ethnicities that make up the Cuban nation” through her passionate recreation of a Havana of yesterday and a Miami of today.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stick with the story for its duration, so I don’t know if it would have been ultimately gratifying. But, perhaps it is a book you might enjoy.

I received this Advance Reader’s Edition from Riverhead Books. It was published in June.

Unrated (since I didn’t finish the book).