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From the National Book Award Finalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Flamethrowers, an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution—a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut with a unique and necessary lens into US-Cuba relations.

Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the Americans tend their own fiefdom—three hundred thousand acres of United Fruit Company sugarcane that surround their gated enclave. If the rural tropics are a child's dreamworld, Everly and K.C. nevertheless have keen eyes for the indulgences and betrayals of the grown-ups around them—the mordant drinking and illicit loves, the race hierarchies and violence.

In Havana, a thousand kilometers and a world away from the American colony, a cabaret dancer meets a French agitator named Christian de La Mazière, whose seductive demeanor can't mask his shameful past. Together they become enmeshed in the brewing political underground. When Fidel and Raúl Castro lead a revolt from the mountains above the cane plantation, torching the sugar and kidnapping a boat full of "yanqui" revelers, K.C. and Everly begin to discover the brutality that keeps the colony humming. Though their parents remain blissfully untouched by the forces of history, the children hear the whispers of what is to come.

Kushner's first novel is a tour de force, haunting and compelling, with the urgency of a telex from a forgotten time and place.

Topics: Cuba, 1950s, Expat Life, Race Relations, Social Class, Politics, Revolution, Sexuality, Childhood, Nostalgic, and Multiple Perspectives

Published: Scribner on Jul 1, 2008
ISBN: 9781416561149
List price: $13.99
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I’ve been obsessed with the history and politics of Cuba for 7 years now and will read any and all things I can get my hands on, if they pertain to Cuba. Telex From Cuba is a novel written by Rachel Kushner that tells the story of numerous families affected by Fidel Castro’s revolution, the 26th of July Movement.We have plant managers of United Fruit, an American sugar producing company that had a huge presence in Cuba until the late ’50s. We have the children of said managers, some of whom are sympathetic to the interests of American companies in Cuba, some of whom sympathize with the Cuban people, and one of whom even joins the rebels in the Sierra Maestro to fight for the overthrow of Batista. We have the stories of the Cuban people, some of whom are poor every-day-Joes, some of whom are politicos making back-door deals with the American government.On the plus side, of all the novels I’ve read about Cuba, and specifically Castro’s Revolution, this is probably the best at showing all sides. Typically, they are either pro-Castro or anti-Castro and don’t bother to explain the complexities of the situation. In this instance, I think readers were treated to a pretty fair analysis of how the Cuban people were being taken advantage of by the interest of American countries, and how Castro’s Revolution disrupted the lives of many.So, I’d say that the story was spot on and successful. The writing, on the other hand, left much to be desired for me. There were, I don’t know, at least 2 dozen characters we were supposed to keep track of. Like I said, I liked that so many points of view were represented, but at a point it just became tedious. Some of the characters were there to make the same point as others and I would have preferred a little more focus. As it was, I had a hard time remembering who some of the people were, with which side their sympathies lay and what their backstory was.If this book had not been about Cuba, I would absolutely not have liked it. However, it was one of the most well-rounded novels I’ve read on the subject.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
There are many, many characters in Rachel Kushner's novel about life in Cuba leading up to the Castro revolution. Which was my great problem with this, her first novel. Doesn't an author owe it to her reader to drop some clue about who we are 'listening' to as we start a new section? Apparently not. Frustrating. And never allowed me to really take an interest in her characters.There were two exceptions. The mysterious La Maziere, a sort of arms-dealer, soldier of fortune who has been around the block a few times. Also the curiously named Rachel K. Although I have no idea why Kushner might have slapped this moniker on her Zazou dancer/show-girl, she also had a distinctive voice, along with La Maziere.All of the other characters (except the historical ones: Castro, Batista, Trujillo, etc.) are in Cuba as part of the great exploitation by United Fruit. One of these families is the Lederer's. When the Lederer's get a Dumont television, one of the first things they watched was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. This is funny, because the first tv show I can remember watching on our black and white Zenith was this same coronation. June 2, 1953. We lived in Miami. I was 8 years old. And we had just gotten our first tv.Passages like this one are few and far between as when La Maziere gives this description of Rachel K: ...the nights he'd spent observing the girl and her zazou act, and eventually investigating for himself, only to discover that her odd combination of remoteness and availability went several layers deep. At ties he'd suspected she was only layers, like an onion, and if he peeled them away, to get to some kernel, some essence or truth, he'd end up with just a pile of glossy, eye-stinging skins, an odor on his hands that was difficult to wash away. People said lemons, but the lemons never worked: a hand would smell of onions until it was finished smelling of onions.Sometimes these descriptions work. Mostly, they don't.I had the odd serendipitous moment while reading Elegance of the Hedgehog awhile ago. Here, another one. I had just watched a newly released to DVD French noir (Jean Pierre Melville's Le Deuxième Souffle). One of the main characters is named Manouche.In another passage where La Maziere describes Rachel K... I forgot that my Miss K is French. Never mind her K name and that lovely Manouche face...Now, either this is an anachronism (the film is from 1966) or Manouche refers to the gypsy jazz of Django Reonhart...either way...Witbh a little care, this could have been so much more accomplished of a novel. At any rate, Kushner is a name to watch in the future.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I’ve been obsessed with the history and politics of Cuba for 7 years now and will read any and all things I can get my hands on, if they pertain to Cuba. Telex From Cuba is a novel written by Rachel Kushner that tells the story of numerous families affected by Fidel Castro’s revolution, the 26th of July Movement.We have plant managers of United Fruit, an American sugar producing company that had a huge presence in Cuba until the late ’50s. We have the children of said managers, some of whom are sympathetic to the interests of American companies in Cuba, some of whom sympathize with the Cuban people, and one of whom even joins the rebels in the Sierra Maestro to fight for the overthrow of Batista. We have the stories of the Cuban people, some of whom are poor every-day-Joes, some of whom are politicos making back-door deals with the American government.On the plus side, of all the novels I’ve read about Cuba, and specifically Castro’s Revolution, this is probably the best at showing all sides. Typically, they are either pro-Castro or anti-Castro and don’t bother to explain the complexities of the situation. In this instance, I think readers were treated to a pretty fair analysis of how the Cuban people were being taken advantage of by the interest of American countries, and how Castro’s Revolution disrupted the lives of many.So, I’d say that the story was spot on and successful. The writing, on the other hand, left much to be desired for me. There were, I don’t know, at least 2 dozen characters we were supposed to keep track of. Like I said, I liked that so many points of view were represented, but at a point it just became tedious. Some of the characters were there to make the same point as others and I would have preferred a little more focus. As it was, I had a hard time remembering who some of the people were, with which side their sympathies lay and what their backstory was.If this book had not been about Cuba, I would absolutely not have liked it. However, it was one of the most well-rounded novels I’ve read on the subject.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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I’ve been obsessed with the history and politics of Cuba for 7 years now and will read any and all things I can get my hands on, if they pertain to Cuba. Telex From Cuba is a novel written by Rachel Kushner that tells the story of numerous families affected by Fidel Castro’s revolution, the 26th of July Movement.We have plant managers of United Fruit, an American sugar producing company that had a huge presence in Cuba until the late ’50s. We have the children of said managers, some of whom are sympathetic to the interests of American companies in Cuba, some of whom sympathize with the Cuban people, and one of whom even joins the rebels in the Sierra Maestro to fight for the overthrow of Batista. We have the stories of the Cuban people, some of whom are poor every-day-Joes, some of whom are politicos making back-door deals with the American government.On the plus side, of all the novels I’ve read about Cuba, and specifically Castro’s Revolution, this is probably the best at showing all sides. Typically, they are either pro-Castro or anti-Castro and don’t bother to explain the complexities of the situation. In this instance, I think readers were treated to a pretty fair analysis of how the Cuban people were being taken advantage of by the interest of American countries, and how Castro’s Revolution disrupted the lives of many.So, I’d say that the story was spot on and successful. The writing, on the other hand, left much to be desired for me. There were, I don’t know, at least 2 dozen characters we were supposed to keep track of. Like I said, I liked that so many points of view were represented, but at a point it just became tedious. Some of the characters were there to make the same point as others and I would have preferred a little more focus. As it was, I had a hard time remembering who some of the people were, with which side their sympathies lay and what their backstory was.If this book had not been about Cuba, I would absolutely not have liked it. However, it was one of the most well-rounded novels I’ve read on the subject.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
There are many, many characters in Rachel Kushner's novel about life in Cuba leading up to the Castro revolution. Which was my great problem with this, her first novel. Doesn't an author owe it to her reader to drop some clue about who we are 'listening' to as we start a new section? Apparently not. Frustrating. And never allowed me to really take an interest in her characters.There were two exceptions. The mysterious La Maziere, a sort of arms-dealer, soldier of fortune who has been around the block a few times. Also the curiously named Rachel K. Although I have no idea why Kushner might have slapped this moniker on her Zazou dancer/show-girl, she also had a distinctive voice, along with La Maziere.All of the other characters (except the historical ones: Castro, Batista, Trujillo, etc.) are in Cuba as part of the great exploitation by United Fruit. One of these families is the Lederer's. When the Lederer's get a Dumont television, one of the first things they watched was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. This is funny, because the first tv show I can remember watching on our black and white Zenith was this same coronation. June 2, 1953. We lived in Miami. I was 8 years old. And we had just gotten our first tv.Passages like this one are few and far between as when La Maziere gives this description of Rachel K: ...the nights he'd spent observing the girl and her zazou act, and eventually investigating for himself, only to discover that her odd combination of remoteness and availability went several layers deep. At ties he'd suspected she was only layers, like an onion, and if he peeled them away, to get to some kernel, some essence or truth, he'd end up with just a pile of glossy, eye-stinging skins, an odor on his hands that was difficult to wash away. People said lemons, but the lemons never worked: a hand would smell of onions until it was finished smelling of onions.Sometimes these descriptions work. Mostly, they don't.I had the odd serendipitous moment while reading Elegance of the Hedgehog awhile ago. Here, another one. I had just watched a newly released to DVD French noir (Jean Pierre Melville's Le Deuxième Souffle). One of the main characters is named Manouche.In another passage where La Maziere describes Rachel K... I forgot that my Miss K is French. Never mind her K name and that lovely Manouche face...Now, either this is an anachronism (the film is from 1966) or Manouche refers to the gypsy jazz of Django Reonhart...either way...Witbh a little care, this could have been so much more accomplished of a novel. At any rate, Kushner is a name to watch in the future.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I’ve been obsessed with the history and politics of Cuba for 7 years now and will read any and all things I can get my hands on, if they pertain to Cuba. Telex From Cuba is a novel written by Rachel Kushner that tells the story of numerous families affected by Fidel Castro’s revolution, the 26th of July Movement.We have plant managers of United Fruit, an American sugar producing company that had a huge presence in Cuba until the late ’50s. We have the children of said managers, some of whom are sympathetic to the interests of American companies in Cuba, some of whom sympathize with the Cuban people, and one of whom even joins the rebels in the Sierra Maestro to fight for the overthrow of Batista. We have the stories of the Cuban people, some of whom are poor every-day-Joes, some of whom are politicos making back-door deals with the American government.On the plus side, of all the novels I’ve read about Cuba, and specifically Castro’s Revolution, this is probably the best at showing all sides. Typically, they are either pro-Castro or anti-Castro and don’t bother to explain the complexities of the situation. In this instance, I think readers were treated to a pretty fair analysis of how the Cuban people were being taken advantage of by the interest of American countries, and how Castro’s Revolution disrupted the lives of many.So, I’d say that the story was spot on and successful. The writing, on the other hand, left much to be desired for me. There were, I don’t know, at least 2 dozen characters we were supposed to keep track of. Like I said, I liked that so many points of view were represented, but at a point it just became tedious. Some of the characters were there to make the same point as others and I would have preferred a little more focus. As it was, I had a hard time remembering who some of the people were, with which side their sympathies lay and what their backstory was.If this book had not been about Cuba, I would absolutely not have liked it. However, it was one of the most well-rounded novels I’ve read on the subject.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Characterisations were variable, I couldn't get KC at all , his voice was a girl's to me - confusing! Lots of colour as metaphor, which felt like homage (to Fitzgerald?). Clearly a first novel with glimpses of future brilliance popping through. Didn't generate enough discussion at book club.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
There are many, many characters in Rachel Kushner's novel about life in Cuba leading up to the Castro revolution. Which was my great problem with this, her first novel. Doesn't an author owe it to her reader to drop some clue about who we are 'listening' to as we start a new section? Apparently not. Frustrating. And never allowed me to really take an interest in her characters.There were two exceptions. The mysterious La Maziere, a sort of arms-dealer, soldier of fortune who has been around the block a few times. Also the curiously named Rachel K. Although I have no idea why Kushner might have slapped this moniker on her Zazou dancer/show-girl, she also had a distinctive voice, along with La Maziere.All of the other characters (except the historical ones: Castro, Batista, Trujillo, etc.) are in Cuba as part of the great exploitation by United Fruit. One of these families is the Lederer's. When the Lederer's get a Dumont television, one of the first things they watched was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. This is funny, because the first tv show I can remember watching on our black and white Zenith was this same coronation. June 2, 1953. We lived in Miami. I was 8 years old. And we had just gotten our first tv.Passages like this one are few and far between as when La Maziere gives this description of Rachel K: ...the nights he'd spent observing the girl and her zazou act, and eventually investigating for himself, only to discover that her odd combination of remoteness and availability went several layers deep. At ties he'd suspected she was only layers, like an onion, and if he peeled them away, to get to some kernel, some essence or truth, he'd end up with just a pile of glossy, eye-stinging skins, an odor on his hands that was difficult to wash away. People said lemons, but the lemons never worked: a hand would smell of onions until it was finished smelling of onions.Sometimes these descriptions work. Mostly, they don't.I had the odd serendipitous moment while reading Elegance of the Hedgehog awhile ago. Here, another one. I had just watched a newly released to DVD French noir (Jean Pierre Melville's Le Deuxième Souffle). One of the main characters is named Manouche.In another passage where La Maziere describes Rachel K... I forgot that my Miss K is French. Never mind her K name and that lovely Manouche face...Now, either this is an anachronism (the film is from 1966) or Manouche refers to the gypsy jazz of Django Reonhart...either way...Witbh a little care, this could have been so much more accomplished of a novel. At any rate, Kushner is a name to watch in the future.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Advance Reader CopyGood first novel story of corporate America's involvement and disregard for the resources and natives in Cuba as Castro commands his rebel forces in the mountains. Told from the perspective of 2 children of families working for American corporations, my only reservation is that I never really liked any of the characters. The portrayal of how little regard the expatriates had for the land they were pillaging was very well done.
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