WARNING: Some mild spoilers in this review. Read with caution!
Confession: I know nothing about Cuban history, thanks to my white-washed education. I’ve become more knowledgeable after I moved to South Florida, but I still have a lot to learn.
This was a book club read. I am in a book club with other local pilot wives. Each month, whoever is hosting the meeting decides on two books. She posts a poll and we all vote on which one we’d rather read. Truly a democratic process.
Being that we live in South Florida and so many people in our local area (and some of my friends) have been impacted by the protests down in Cuba recently, The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton really stood out to me.
A book with not one, not two, but THREE powerful women? With a country so close to home fighting for independence? Say no more!
“At the end of the nineteenth century, three revolutionary women fight for freedom in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s captivating new novel inspired by real-life events and the true story of a legendary Cuban woman–Evangelina Cisneros–who changed the course of history.
A feud rages in Gilded Age New York City between newspaper tycoons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. When Grace Harrington lands a job at Hearst’s newspaper in 1896, she’s caught in a cutthroat world where one scoop can make or break your career, but it’s a story emerging from Cuba that changes her life.
Unjustly imprisoned in a notorious Havana women’s jail, eighteen-year-old Evangelina Cisneros dreams of a Cuba free from Spanish oppression. When Hearst learns of her plight and splashes her image on the front page of his paper, proclaiming her, “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba,” she becomes a rallying cry for American intervention in the battle for Cuban independence.
With the help of Marina Perez, a courier secretly working for the Cuban revolutionaries in Havana, Grace and Hearst’s staff attempt to free Evangelina. But when Cuban civilians are forced into reconcentration camps and the explosion of the USS Maine propels the United States and Spain toward war, the three women must risk everything in their fight for freedom.”
This book took me longer to finish than I wanted to and I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve just had a lot going on in my life or if it is because of the writing, but I am so glad I stuck with it despite that… simply because this book is AMAZING.
This book is told from three different perspectives: Grace Harrington, a female journalist in New York City; Marina Perez, a courier for the Cuban Revolutionaries, and Evangelina Cisneros, the woman dubbed “the most beautiful girl in Cuba,” who is NOT a fictional character.
I love that The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba had a real historical figure as a main character.
These women come from different backgrounds but they are all working towards seeing a day when Cuba is free from Spain. Eventually, these women cross paths with each other in some way and as a woman, it is so empowering to see how they support each other and are so selfless, working towards a greater cause.
The best part about this book is that it educates the reader as well as entertains them. I feel like it is rare when a book does that well these days!
The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba is beautifully told. It will make you cry, smile, and everything in between. It will especially make you think about the past and perhaps make you more curious about Cuban history if you don’t know much about it yet.
Memorable Quotes and Events
“It is a complicated thing to love the man you send off to war, to be filled with an immense pride at his loyalty and his love for his country, the lengths to which he will go to defend what he believes is right.” – page 64
“When I reach the consul’s residence, I quickly reach into my dress and pull out the folded letter, nestled between my breasts.
I shove it back between the linens.
The housekeeper opens the door, and I hand the laundry to her.
‘See that goes to Consul General Lee.’” – page 305
“If someone had told me my journalistic career would lead to me sailing around Cuba dressed in men’s clothing in a convoy of chartered vessels with William Randolph Hearst and a pair of chorus girls who regularly break into song and dance, I wouldn’t have believed them.
But here we are.” – page 348
“I’m American. I was born there; my father was born there. It’s the country that welcomed my mother when she had to leave her home. But I am also Cuban. And I believe in their independence.” – page 356
Read This If You Love…
- Powerful female characters
- Historical fiction
- Cuban culture and history
- Journalism (especially women in journalism)
Bottom line: if you want an epic dose of girl power, especially during a time when women weren’t viewed as equals, this is the perfect book for you. In addition to that, you will learn without actually feeling like you’re learning something!