Distant Palaces

“Distant Palaces” by Abilio Estevez (Cuba)

Synopsis and Review

“Distant Palaces”: transforming creative energy into life

When Victorio learns that his home is about to be demolished he leaves his job, burns his possessions and takes to the streets. Wandering the city, he meets two people who change his life: Salma, a young prostitute, and Don Fuco, an enigmatic old man who performs as a clown. In the ruins of an old theatre, Don Fuco initiates his new friends into the secrets of poetry and theatre, bringing beauty, magic and exuberance into the impoverished lives of Havana’s citizens.

Readers liked the story immensely. They loved the colourful descriptions of Havana: the decaying buildings, the open windows, the rooftops, the music, the weather, the people. A few readers said they found the story hard to get into, but once they did they were hooked! The 3 protagonists appealed to all the members of the book club in different ways: they loved Don Fuco and some felt that there was a spiritual element to his character. One reader even compared him to Jesus and saw Salma and Victorio as his disciples! Readers felt that the characters of Salma and Victorio were well developed, though some said they had difficulty picturing them. Readers loved the many contrasts: dream/reality, theatre/city, past/present, rooftops/streets, sunshine/rain, bravery/fear. However, one reader felt that at times the story was too detached from reality making it hard to distinguish between what was happening and what was imagined or remembered. Overall, readers found the story uplifting, the translation excellent and the message that happiness is what you make out of life inspiring. The book averaged 8.3 out of 10, the second highest score this season.

Nicola’s Book Club reading list

Season 3 (Feb – Jun 2006)

“Pilgrim” by Timothy Findley (Canada) *
“Mr Potter” by Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua)
“Island” by Aldous Huxley (U.K.)
“Broken Verses” by Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan)
“Distant Palaces” by Abilio Estevez (Cuba)

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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