BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Our Woman in Havana: Reporting Castro’s Cuba by Sarah Rainsford [in Booklist]

Two timely books titled Our Woman in Havana hit shelves this year: a memoir by U.S. diplomat Vicki Huddleston and this account by former BBC Cuba correspondent (2011-2014) Rainsford, who was “guided by the writing of another English visitor seduced by Havana,” novelist Graham Greene.

A regular Cuba-returnee from her current Moscow posting, Rainsford uses Greene’s 1958 Our Man in Havana as a loose narrative structure as she “explore[s] the making and the unmaking of Castro’s Cuba.” She intertwines her search for Greene’s Havana during its pre-revolutionary decadence with glimpses into the life of the original, pioneering “our woman in Havana,” R. Hart Phillips, New York Times’ Cuba correspondent from 1937 to 1961, who obscured her gender in print with an initial.

Rainsford reports her own challenges – labyrinthine access (or not) to officials, curtailed comings-and-goings, unreliable internet connection – and reveals illuminating tales shared (sometimes at great risk) by subjects, colleagues, and friends about overseas funding, growing private businesses, and plans and hopes for a still uncertain future. Rainsford confronts a country of enigmatic contradictions with eyes and heart wide open in this fascinating, enlightening read.

Review: “Nonfiction,” Booklist Online, September 7, 2018

Readers: Adult

Published: 2018


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