Ferrer turns to the island story, packing five centuries into concise chapters brimming with vivid detail and terrific page-turning momentum ... Fidel Castro, mercifully, doesn’t enter Ferrer’s story until about halfway through the book. There is, of course, no telling the history of modern Cuba – or indeed, the modern US – without him. But he can take up all the oxygen ... Ferrer recounts his rise while balancing it with the larger social forces he was able to harness.
Ferrer’s retelling of these wars’ events from an updated, more nuanced perspective will bring a fresh view to history you thought you already knew. The narrative is often simplified as 'the United States saved Cuba,' but Ferrer’s look at the Spanish-American War frames it as the point at which relations between the two countries finally began to sour ... Organized into 12 parts and accompanied by stunning historical photographs and illustrations, Cuba covers more than five centuries of complicated and dynamic history. Although much of the book covers the upheaval and chaos of the 20th century, Ferrer is an exceptionally thorough guide of the 15th century onward, careful to keep her readers’ attention with interesting characters, new insights on historical events and dramatic yet accessible writing. This new history of Cuba shows how connected all of our countries’ histories really are.
It was probably a mistake to adopt such a longue durée...the preceding period is largely irrelevant to Ms. Ferrer’s theme of Cuban-U.S. relations, and her knowledge of it is flimsy ... From the late 18th century, however, the narrative becomes both reliable and readable, albeit hurried. More would be welcome. In the context of slave rebellions, there is much on Haiti, but no mention of Surinam. Ms. Ferrer’s belief in the 'Williams thesis'—the claim by the former leader of Trinidad that slavery fed industrialization—would benefit from more scrutiny. The fast pace bypasses much that is relevant ... Ms. Ferrer’s coverage of exiles is excellent, but readers are bound to wonder why exile was a route to power under Valeriano Weyler, 'the butcher,' but not under Fidel Castro ... On the Castro era, Ms. Ferrer’s pages are exemplary—full of plausible detail, lively insights, and lucid prose ... The author’s involvement in her story makes her objectivity remarkable. She captures the character of the failure of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba ... By being equally severe with Cuban leaders and U.S. leaders, Ms. Ferrer achieves an honorable objective: pleasing nobody by being just.