Cuban American novelist Chanel Cleeton returns to her lush, compelling saga of the Cuban American Perez sisters in her fifth historical novel...In 1964, eldest sister Isabel takes an impulsive trip to Spain in search of her sister Beatriz...Worried Beatriz's intelligence work and devil-may-care attitude may have put her in danger, Isabel nevertheless jumps at the chance to escape her unhappy marriage for a time...Cleeton deftly weaves Isabel's narrative together with that of her mother, Alicia Perez, who fled to Barcelona to escape her own troubled marriage in 1936, with toddler Isabel in tow...Cleeton vividly describes Barcelona through the eyes of her protagonists; the city, and its mixture of art and tragedy, is the perfect backdrop for Alicia's struggle and Isabel's soul-searching
Cleeton’s tender narration makes clear the warring factions of our (women's) emotions as we make decisions that will affect social standing, not letting our family down, feelings of helplessness, and our own best interests...There is also the idea that women of a certain class are held to a higher standard as to whom they are "allowed" to marry. Young men also are expected to marry within their social class...Cleeton's writing is mostly focused on action and dialogue to move the plot forward. But she also expresses complex thoughts extremely effectively...Here she writes about the audacity of creating art and hoping that others will find meaning in it...Book clubs that discuss Our Last Days in Barcelona will have a plethora of themes and topics to explore...Feminism, women in history, war, the fight for independence and our role in society are all ideas that will engender some serious conversations...It's a lovely and entertaining read, but it's also so much more.
In this engrossing saga, Cleeton picks up the story of the Perez family from When We Left Cuba, following their exile in Florida after Castro’s revolution...There are satisfying endings for mother and daughter, with an unexpected revelation of how Alicia’s choice made Isabel’s possible a generation later...Cleeton’s complex female characters and evocative settings, spiced with a dollop of political drama, make this a pleasing outing.