In May 1939, when Professor Carl Mueller, his wife, Esther, and their three children flee Nazi Germany, and find refuge on the paradise island of Cuba, they are all full of hopes and dreams for a safe and happy future.
But those dreams are shattered when Carl and Esther are confronted by a ghost from their past, and old betrayals return to haunt them.
The turbulent years of political corruption leading to Batista’s dictatorship, forces the older children to take very different paths to pursue their own dangerous dreams.
And – among the chaos and the conflict that finally leads to Castro’s revolution and victory in 1959, an unlikely love begins to grow – a love that threatens the whole family.
Having escaped a war-torn Europe, their Island of Dreams is to tear them apart forever.
I am an award-winning British screenwriter, who was on the first writing team of the BBC’s EASTENDERS, and won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best TV serial for CORONATION STREET. I was Head of Development at Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group, producing seven major television series, including ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ starring Richard ‘John Boy’ Thomas, and ‘Twist in the Tale’, featuring William Shatner. I was co-creator of the UK Channel Five teen-cult drama series ‘THE TRIBE’, which ran for five series.
I have written two novels, CHICAGO MAY and BIRTH OF THE MALL RATS [an intro to the TV series THE TRIBE].
My thoughts: this was an interesting read, relating the story of a family – the Muellers – during a period of history I didn’t know a lot about – the Cuban Revolution.
Fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany, Dr Mueller and his family travel to Cuba, but have to ask an old acquaintance, Freddie Sanchez, to help them enter the country after the president refuses to allow the ship to dock. Freddie, despite the way they parted years before, agrees and so begins his long relationship with the family.
As the children grow up, they each find their place – Hans as a drug dealer and gun runner, Anna in the struggle against Batista’s regime and Klaus in his art. The complex relationship between their parents remains strained and sad, but they are ably cared for by their Nanny, Mrs Price and housekeeper Carlotta.
A lot happens in their lives, both personally, and politically. Freddie is a constant presence, reassuring in many ways as they grow up. His friendship with Carl is lovely, the two men bond professionally as doctors but also come to depend on each other emotionally.
Esther however is a menace, full of pills and self-delusion, she refuses to engage with reality and is the cause of a lot of misery in the family home. Her rejection of her husband and children, her bitterness and self pity poison the air around her. It’s tragic but self-inflicted. I didn’t take to her at all.
I enjoyed this book, I liked Freddie, he was so kind and gentle and I loved his bond with sweet Klaus. I also liked Carl, a man who tried to help people and fix the mistakes he’d made. I wasn’t overly keen on Hans or Anna, both selfish in different ways, they didn’t really seem too bothered about anyone else. But considering their childhoods, not really surprising.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.