The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba's Last Tycoon

Overview

Fifty years after the Cuban revolution, the legendary wealth of the sugar magnate Julio Lobo remains emblematic of a certain way of life that came to an abrupt end when Fidel Castro marched into Havana. Known in his day as the King of Sugar, Lobo was for decades the most powerful force in the world sugar market, controlling vast swaths of the island's sugar interests. Born in 1898, the year of Cuba's independence, Lobo's extraordinary life mirrors, in almost lurid technicolor, ...
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The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba's Last Tycoon

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Overview

Fifty years after the Cuban revolution, the legendary wealth of the sugar magnate Julio Lobo remains emblematic of a certain way of life that came to an abrupt end when Fidel Castro marched into Havana. Known in his day as the King of Sugar, Lobo was for decades the most powerful force in the world sugar market, controlling vast swaths of the island's sugar interests. Born in 1898, the year of Cuba's independence, Lobo's extraordinary life mirrors, in almost lurid technicolor, the many rises and final fall of the troubled Cuban republic.

The details of Lobo's life are fit for Hollywood. He twice cornered the international sugar market and had the largest collection of Napoleonica outside of France, including the emperor's back teeth and death mask. He once faced a firing squad only to be pardoned at the last moment, and he later survived a gangland shooting. He courted movie stars from Bette Davis to Joan Fontaine and filled the swimming pool at his sprawling estate with perfume when Esther Williams came to visit.

As Rathbone observes, such are the legends of which revolutions are made and later justified. But Lobo was also a progressive and a philanthropist, and his genius was so widely acknowledged that Che Guevara personally offered him the position of minister of sugar in the Communist regime. When Lobo declined—knowing that their worldviews could never be compatible—his properties were nationalized, most of his fortune vanished overnight, and he left the island, never to return to his beloved Cuba.

Financial Times journalist John Paul Rathbone has been fascinated by this intoxicating, whirligig, and contradictory prerevolutionary period his entire life. His mother was also a member of Havana's storied haute bourgeoisie and a friend of Lobo's daughters. Woven into Lobo's tale is her family's experience of republic, revolution, and exile, as well as the author's own struggle to come to grips with Cuba's—and his family's—turbulent history.

Prodigiously researched and imaginatively written, The Sugar King of Havana is a captivating portrait of the glittering end of an era, but also of a more hopeful Cuban past, one that might even provide a window into the island's future.

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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
Although Mr. Rathbone…occasionally romanticizes Lobo and his world, he gives us a richly detailed portrait of this complicated, conflicted man while deftly weaving a thumbnail history of modern Cuba into Lobo's story. He leaves the reader with a palpable sense of the glittering and increasingly violent world that this "new sugar magus" and his family inhabited, and conveys both the profound emotional dislocations of exile and the dangers and persistence of nostalgia.
—The New York Times
Ann Louise Bardach
In The Sugar King of Havana, John Paul Rathbone…has pulled off a splendid trifecta. He has produced a long overdue biography of Lobo along with a perceptive and unsentimental rendering of pre-revolution Cuba as well as Rathbone's own family story—tracing his mother's trajectory from dazzling Havana debutante to toy store clerk in London. Rathbone's nuanced blending of familial and national history lends this work poignancy and depth.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"An exceptionally rich portrait not only of an empire and its progenitor but Cuba itself, and the economic legacy of Castro's revolution, the loss of capital, and the end of Cuba's 'great age of sugar.'" —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Booklist
[The Sugar King Of Havana] restores a realistic sense of what 1950s Cuba was like, including the guarded optimism with which many upper-crust Cubans such as Lobo initially viewed Castro's seizing of power. Rathbone's care with social atmosphere lifts his portrayal of Lobo above the usual life-of-a-tycoon and enriches the historical understanding of readers contemplating post Castro Cuba.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143119333
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/26/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 292,343
  • Product dimensions: 5.55 (w) x 8.39 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author


John Paul Rathbone has worked as an economist and a journalist, as well as at the World Bank, and he is currently the deputy head of the Financial Times's prestigious Lex column.

Simon Vance has recorded over four hundred audiobooks and has earned over twenty AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for his narration of Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. He is also the recipient of five coveted Audie Awards, including one for The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, and he was named an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    OK but um... just not that interesting or compelling.

    This is a book about a rich Cuban person who was one of the last barons in Cuba. The title basically says that. The story is about as exciting and interesting as reading about the last sugar baron of Cuba might be expected to be. All I remember is that he made his daughter climb a mountain and he thought the one that didn't make it was a wimp. That's it. One year later, and that's all I remember from the book. Not that exciting or memorable for me. Could just be me, though. The book is definitely well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2010

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    Posted August 17, 2010

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    Posted November 4, 2010

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    Posted July 20, 2011

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    Posted March 27, 2011

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    Posted July 12, 2011

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    Posted September 10, 2010

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