I will judge a book by its cover and I will not be made ashamed thank you very much. As much as we all love a good rant, here I will talk about book covers that I think are particularly good and why they’re good. As with almost everything on this blog, there will be a good deal of spoilers in these posts as good covers will always tell us something about the book they’re advertising. In the end, covers are advertising and if you don’t have a good cover it’ll be harder, but not impossible, to sell people on your book. Alright, let’s get to it!

I think the cover of this book becomes most impactful when you finish up the book. At first, when I looked at the cover I didn’t see anything significant about it. It was only after reading and absorbing the themes of the book, and I really appreciate that. It’s a beautiful cover in itself, but the symbolism behind the cover makes it even more meaningful.

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The top half of the cover is really what I’m most interested in, but the bottom half still has interesting scenery. The Malecón seems like the obvious choice of the bottom scenery, and the most fitting—the skyline of Havana behind it, the spray of sea from the crashing waves in the foreground. It’s where everything with Elisa and Pablo really started. If you believe in love at first sight, this is where they truly fell in love. And I think it also contributes to the romantic beachside city image so many people have of Cuba.

I think we’re supposed to understand the draw and romanticism of Cuba when we first enter the book. I had that a little bit, just because I’ve never been to Cuba and have only spent a total of like 15 minutes in Key West. In addition, my area of interest in travel isn’t in the Caribbean, so I don’t know very much about it other than the names of some of the islands. I think this romantic idea of Cuba is best represented by the woman on the front cover. I originally thought the woman on the front of the book was Marisol. She’s the main character so it’s an obvious choice. this was before I had even started reading it. But the more I think about it, it seems more likely to be Elisa. The dress and the pearls convey some time in the past (not that many people seem to wear pearls anymore), and it seems appropriate that Elisa, the person who started this all; Elisa, the person who affects every single character in the book is on the front cover. The person at the center of this book isn’t Marisol, but Elisa. But after some thought, I decided it could either be Elisa, or no one at all. And depending on who you place as the woman on the cover can mean very different things.

If you say the woman on the cover doesn’t represent Elisa, you could say that it represents Cuba as a whole. There’s a quote in the book that actually lends to this argument: “Havana is like a woman who was grand once and has fallen on hard times, and yet hints of her former brilliance remain, traces of an era since passed, a photograph faded by time and circumstance, its edges crumbling to dust.” Like that thing where you personify an object, but the opposite way around? I think a lot of people are drawn by what Havana represents, or rather what the media has led Havana and the rest of the Caribbean to represent; blue skies, even bluer water, fruity cocktails, good food, and amazing sunsets. It’s that picture that everyone has in their head of a tropical paradise, and if you’re some people, you also envision beautiful people. And honestly, I think that’s what the author is ultimately trying to convey in this book. Before Marisol arrived in Cuba, she lived off romanticized stories her grandmother told her about Cuba and what Havana use to be like when her grandmother was a child. So Marisol had this particular idea of what Cuba, and specifically Havana, would look like when she got there. Ultimately, it’s meeting Luis and learning about the other parts of Cuba that awaken a fuller love for Cuba in Marisol, for what it was before, what it is now, and what it could be in the future if people like Luis continue to speak out.

I think people definitely objectify and fetishize the people of a place like the Caribbean, or a whirlwind romance that ends tragically because the traveler has to return to their country of origin. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with defining a country by it’s natural or man-made landscape (when people think of China they just think of the Great Wall of China), but I do think there’s something wrong with only defining a nation by its landscape. It erases so many other parts of the nation and the people. For Cuba, it erases all the challenges and struggles the people are dealing with. It reduces the place to an object, something for people to visit and then forget about. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with traveling, I happen to love traveling—I’ve traveled to China a couple times and Iceland once. But I am very mindful about how I travel and who I impact when traveling. And this idea of a paradise where everything is perfect is far from the truth. Like the scene where Elisa and Pablo are walking along the Melacón and see the tourists throwing coins for the boys to dive for in the sea. It’s There’s this part in the book that perfectly sums it up: “But what will change? Will we go from [how Cuba is now] to serving even more tourists and courting cruise ships? That was the Cuba of Batista’s time when the American mob ran Havana with their hotels and casinos. When Hollywood used this as their playground. Is there no chance for Cuba to be something more? Something greater?… There are restaurants in Havana my grandmother frequented with her family when she was a little girl. Now only tourists can afford to eat there. We’re guests in our own country. Second rate because we had the misfortune to be born Cuban.” (165)

So the model of the woman is very appropriate on the cover; the book takes the idea of Cuba and what people have of it and tells them that it’s more than just a pretty place. It’s not just a pretty landscape to appreciate, a cheap place to visit, a “paradise” on earth for its visitors. It’s a real country with real problems and people who are determined to solve them—driven by a strong love for their country and country people. It’s a place where there’s a lot of pain and work to be done for the people to be happy. Proving that point is the entire message of the whole book.