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).

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    • Teddy on July 23, 2008 at 23:44

    Thanks for the warning Wendy. LOL! I’ll skip this one.

    BTW, I nominated you for an award on my blog.

    • Lisa on July 24, 2008 at 15:14

    That’s too bad cause the cover is gorgeous!

    • Wendy on July 24, 2008 at 15:33

    Teddy: Aren’t you glad that every now and then I actually discourage your book buying?!?! *laughs*

    Lisa: I agree – gorgeous cover! So it was an additional disappointment that I didn’t like it!

    • Miriam on July 27, 2008 at 20:58

    That’s the problem when you read an advance copy of a translated book. Sometimes there is a huge difference between advance copies and the final. I read the copy sold at bookstores and I did enjoy it. I think the story is cleverly built. A pity you missed it.

    • Wendy on July 28, 2008 at 06:41

    Miriam: Sounds like you are pretty passionate about this book 🙂 Looks like we will just disagree. I don’t think it being an ARC had much to do with my disliking it. Actually, the reviewer I quoted above had a similar problem with the translation (he even said almost verbatim what I did about the language being stilted). Perhaps if I’d been able to slog through the whole thing, I might have appreciated the way she built the story…but if I have to wait until the end to enjoy a book, I’m not likely to get there 🙂

    • Wendy on July 28, 2008 at 06:46

    Oh, by the way, Miriam – I checked out the reviews at Amazon as you suggested. Looks like there were three reviews, and two of them were submitted by the same person (who gave the book a 5 stars). So two people liked it…but the review average is falsely skewed because one person submitted two reviews both with 5 star ratings. Makes me wonder, just a tad, if they are connected to the book or author in some way and trying to boost sales! But, maybe I’m just a skeptic 🙂

    • Monique on April 27, 2012 at 02:57

    I strongly recommend that you finish the novel! Although it is slow moving in the beginning and somewhat difficult o keep up with all of the different story lines, it all comes together very nicely and the ending is magical, quite literally!

    Definitely worth the read if you stick with it!!! I plan to re-read it as soon as I am able!!

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