Oscar Hijuelos's sixth novel, A Simple Habana Melody, is as much a love song to prewar Cuba as the "simple melody" at the center of the book. That tune, named "Roses Puras," was written by Hijuelos's protagonist, the aging composer Israel Levis, in the 1920s for his protege and secret love, the singer Rita Valladares. The novel is set just after World War II, when Levis has returned to his childhood home in Havana after many years in Europe, at first in Paris, then in Buchenwald, where he was interned by Nazis who ignored the crucifix around his neck and focused only on his Sephardic name. The bittersweet feelings Levis bears toward "Rosas Puras" ("Beautiful Roses"), his best-known song, were further complicated when a German officer, who had gathered some musically gifted inmates for a concert, asked him to play this catchy old tune, unaware that Levis had written it. But this is not primarily a war novel; it is a novel of memory, a series of visits to the beautiful, vanished world of Levis's childhood and youth seen through the lens of his later suffering. Written with the same richness of detail, sensuality, and musicality of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, A Simple Habana Melody contains even greater emotional depth and narrative complexity. --Regina Marler
It is 1947, and Israel Levis, a Cuban composer whose life had once been a dream of music, love, and sadness, returns to Cuba after being mistakenly imprisoned during the Nazi occupation of France.
When Levis arrives back in Habana, his mind returns to an unrequited romance with the alluring Rita Valladares, a singer for whom Levis had written his most famous song, "Rosas Puras." This 1928 composition became the most famous rumba in the world and changed American and European tastes in music and dance forever.
A love story -- of art, family, and country -- A Simple Habana Melody is a virtuoso performance from one of our most important writers.
|Book:||A Simple Habana Melody|
|Number of Pages:||342|
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