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Posted September 9, 2002
A Complex Habana Life
This exquisite novel is based somewhat on the life of the great Cuban composer Eernesto Lecuona (remeber Malaguena?). Although it is obvious from the outset what the plot will be, the story unfolds in a series of tiny titled chapters, each of which presents its own little surprise. To a musician, the music described in the course of the book is almost audible.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2002
A COMPELLING REFLECTION SUPERBLY READ
There couldn't be a more perfect pairing than the words of Pulitzer-prize winning writer Oscar Hijuelos and the voice of acclaimed actor and Emmy winner Jimmy Smits. Accomplished in multiple venues, stage, film and television, Smits delivers an impeccable reading to the mesmerizing story of Cuban musician, Israel Levis, the maker of rhumbas. The year is 1947 and Levis, slim and old, is returning to Habana, Cuba, following his incarceration in Buchenwald. Although a practicing Catholic, he was thought a Jew because of his last name. His suffering is a marked contrast to his youth in a well-to-do family where he was raised as a child prodigy. Music was his love, his life. In 1928 he had composed 'Rosas Puras' or 'Pretty Roses' for his favorite singer and the woman he loved, Rita Valladares. This composition became the most famous rhumba in the world. At that time Cuba reeled under a dictatorship, the iron fist of Geraldo Machado. Eventually the dictator forced Levis to leave Cuba and seek sanctuary in Paris. He lived there in relative peace until 1940 when the world was torn asunder, and he became a victim of the Holocaust. 'A Simple Habana Melody' in the hands of the brilliant Oscar Hijuelos is so much more than the story of one man. It is a reflection on art and country superbly rendered by Jimmy Smits.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 10, 2002
A musician's life
If you are fascinated by the tortured soul and decadent proclivities of a musician¿s life then you¿ll love this book. Israel Levis was born in Cuba in 1890 and displayed a talent for music at a very young age. He became well-known as a classical and popular pianist but it was his composition of Rosas Puras that sky-rocketed him into world renown fame. He lived the musician¿s fantasy ¿ touring all over the world, beautiful women in every city, jam sessions with the most eminent artists, parties until dawn, overflowing brandy and an endless supply of talent which seemed to pour through his fingers at will. Still, his uncompromising devotion to his mother and God, his secret appreciation for the most handsome men, and his giant-like appearance due to overabundant eating cause him to be painfully timid in the presence of the woman his truly loves. While living out his opulent life in Paris, he is branded a Jew during the Nazi occupation in France because of his Jewish sounding name. Even though he is the most pious of Cuban Catholics and despite his celebrity status and many bribes he is subsequently sent to a concentration camp. Does he ever regain the joy and exuberance that once flowed from his heart to his music? This absorbing and endearing tale was my first novel by Hijuelos and I¿m looking forward to reading the rest of them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.