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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Havana Gold

by
Leonardo Padura


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Havana Gold



Title: Havana Gold
Author: Leonardo Padura
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 286 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Havana Gold - US
Vientos de cuaresma - US
Havana Gold - UK
Havana Gold - Canada
Les vents de carême - France
Handel der Gefühle - Deutschland
  • Havana Gold is the second volume in Padura's 'Havana Quartet'
  • Spanish title: Vientos de cuaresma
  • Translated by Peter Bush

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Our Assessment:

B : solid, atmospheric Cuban police procedural

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 12/5/2008 Anthony Lavelle
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 12/8/2004 Knut Henkel
The Telegraph . 12/7/2008 Jake Kerridge
TLS . 20/6/2008 Chris Moss


  From the Reviews:
  • "Havana Gold is a textured treat for those who like their detective fiction served long and lazy with a double shot of rum." - Anthony Lavelle, Financial Times

  • "Padura's attempt to give an authentic flavour of life in Communist Cuba is spoiled by overblown writing. One does not have to take a book as seriously as its author does to enjoy it, however, and happy as I am to read an efficient mystery with a bit of light emotional wallowing, I had a fine old time." - Jake Kerridge, The Telegraph

  • "Capitalism seems to make for better crime stories than Communism. There is the state bureaucracy of the police station, and Conde is too close to the dictatorial powers-that-be to be a true renegade. A further problem is that Peter Bush's translation is not always assured (.....) But Havana Gold has other strengths. (...) Conde is a fully realized character; it is away from the crime scene (...) that we best observe him, an inchoate, impassioned everyman." - Chris Moss, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Padura's 'Havana quartet' is a seasonal series, each season literally sweeping in, often with weather extremes; so also in Havana Gold, which begins:

     It was Ash Wednesday and, eternally punctual, a parched, choking wind swept through the barrio stirring up filth and sorrow, as if sent straight from the desert to recall the Messiah's sacrifice.
       It's all about the mood, and the mood is always the same, Mario Conde nostalgic and wondering what's become of him and all his friends as all their childhood dreams have faded (which seems to weigh on him far more than on them). "You're always bloody remembering", one of his friends tells him, and certainly Conde remains stuck in (or at least on) the past. The murder case he has to work on here doesn't help matters, as the victim is a young teacher from the school he had gone to.
       The victim was a well-liked young woman and apparently a talented and enthusiastic teacher; only twenty-four, she wasn't that much older than some of her students. Of course, it turns out she wasn't simply the nice young woman first described to Conde, and the school isn't quite the near-idyllic place Conde likes to remember. As someone tells him:
Things happen you probably don't know about. There are many people here up to their necks in it, and the trick is to keep your head down and not to get into trouble. That's why everybody will tell you Lissette the teacher was real nice.
       It's Cuba, adjusting to a post-Soviet world, so there's a specific kind of small-scale corruption and crime, but while the details may differ, the motivations and feelings of the character are familiar enough. Here's also a world where the twelfth-graders are already "eternally adrift" -- younger versions of Conde himself.
       Conde has his informers and knows which buttons to push, though he seems almost wary of what he will find out. He meets a woman, too, and quickly falls head over heels -- but can reality live up to his expectations ?
       Conde is mired in nostalgia in Havana Gold. His friends point it out to him, too:
My friend, you can't live on nostalgia. Nostalgia deceives: it only reminds you of what you want to remember and that can be very healthy at times, but it's almost always counterfeit currency. But, you know, I don't reckon you've ever been fit for life. You're beyond the pale. You fucking live in the past. Live your life now, guy. It's not such a sin.
       Havana Gold feels somewhat like a transitional work in the quartet, a stage Conde has to get through, where he doesn't think he'll be able to write, for example (only imagining writing a book: "a chronicle of love, hatred, happiness and frustration, he would call it Havana Blue"). It's solid, but still probably the weakest of the four novels, but it has its place (and is well worthwhile) as part of the Conde-series

       Note also: there are some bizarre translation slips: "a double hitter of baseball" (double-header, anyone ?), for example, or: some liquor from an unlabelled bottle described as "Gut-rot" (where even the OED has: rotgut).

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Links:

Havana Gold: Reviews: Leonardo Padura Fuentes: Other books by Leonardo Padura Fuentes under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Cuban author Leonardo Padura Fuentes was born in 1955.

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© 2008-2009 the complete review

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