Despite the high ratings from most readers of THE PLAYWRIGHT’S HOUSE, I consider my four star rating on Goodreads a bit of a gift.
Having never read much about Cuba, what I liked best about this novel is the glimpse into life on the island — how government power is wielded, how everyday people live, where and how Cubans access the outside world. And it’s definitely well-written and a good story where the last half is increasingly suspenseful and compelling. But, for me, the first half felt quite plodding.
The book centers on the relationship between two somewhat estranged brothers who are full of long-standing mutual resentments and jealousies:
• Serguey, the elder, is an up-and-coming attorney working for the government of Fidel and Raul Castro. He and his wife Anabel live lives of privilege — access to good food, a luxurious apartment, opportunities for postings abroad.
• Younger brother Victor operates in a wider network of more common folks and he has a record of multiple arrests for black market activity.
Suddenly their lives and the lives of their entire extended family change when the brothers’ father, a well-known Cuban playwright, is suddenly arrested on unrevealed charges. What actions can and will these two brothers take to assist their Dad? Will Serguey jeopardize his promising career and personal comfort to help a man who was, at best, a distant father? Can the two brothers put aside their personal animosities to cooperate? How will friends, neighbors and co-workers react? In short, what happens to any individual when a person they are close to is perceived as threatening the status quo of an isolating government regime?
I DO recommend the book, though I also warn you that the ending was less than satisfying to me. But you will learn a lot about what it’s like to live under a totalitarian government.
More about the Cuban-born author, Dariel Suarez, who currently resides in the Boston area.