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  • Location: Cuba

Slow Train to Guantanamo

Why a Booktrail?

2000s: This is a booktrail on a train! and a very funny story of using trains and trying to work out routes in a very foreign land. The route takes Peter from the north to Guantanamo in the south of the island.

  • ISBN: 978-1908129505
  • Genre: Travelogue

What you need to know before your trail

If you thought Cuba was an island paradise, Millar takes the train and shows you the true picture of a poor country. The infrastructure is crumbling and people are suffering rationing and lack of basic necessities such as running water and clean living areas.

A travelogue with a difference and what a difference. If you’ve travelled in Latin America or Cuba in particular there are lots of things that you will sympathise and empathise with. That’s when you’re not laughing with him at some of the more unbelievable parts of the journey!

Travel Guide

Peter Millar, a journalist starts his trail from the the crumbling town of Havana on his way to the now infamous town of Guantanamo. One of his first observations on Havana is:

“I stroll out into the warm sticky afternoon heat to reacquaint myself with a city that is forever being built and forever falling down.”

How we laughed at the trial of buying or trying to buy a ticket from a remote ticket office. Oh and the waiting game, not to mention the completely different approach to wanting to sit once on the train and that’s if it even arrives.

The noise and the shaking of the train journey was another nice touch – ah this author has seen and done it all – and thankfully has lived to tell the tale. This is one funny and utterly compelling account of one man’s journey across Cuba enriched with his observations and wit.

This journey is one of sights, sounds, smells and tastes as the author takes us around the bars, clubs, museums and streets of the various places he stops off at. Due to the extreme heat, sweat and a chicken peeing on him, it may not be a journey you would want to take yourself but the beaten of this book is that you can get the best of it whilst sitting in your comfy armchair.
Even if you are not interested primarily in the politics or history of Cuba then you will at least be familiar  with some of the more Western images of it  – Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, the cigars, the rum and of course Buena Vista Social Club. This book does give a brief history lesson but it is much more than this – the history is merely a backdrop to a much more fascinating insight into a misunderstood country and its people.

Oh and not forgetting the snippets of interesting facts such how Che (dramatically represented on the cover) got his name, what Daiquiri really is and what Cadbury and Hershey’s chocolate have in common… fascinating.

Booktrailer Review

Susan:

This is a book trail via a train journey and what a thrilling ride it is!

It has all the ingredients of a good travel guide and an insight into not only Cuban society and history but also the Spanish language spoken in Cuba. Language, travel, and humorous moments featured in one book. What more could I ask for?

This journey is one of sights,sounds, smells and tastes as the author takes us around the bars, clubs, museums and streets of the various places he stops off at. Due to the extreme heat, sweat and a chicken peeing on him, it may not be a journey you would want to take yourself but the beaten of this book is that you can get the best of it whilst sitting in your comfy armchair.

A particular strength of the novel to me was the linguistic story  – Cuba is Cuba which comes to mean so many different things as the book progresses. There are many linguistic insights – such as how the Cubans don’t seem to like the letter ‘s’ or to pronounce things in the same way that they do in the Spanish spoken in Spain.

The end of the book – when the author reaches Guantanamo is interesting as it is where we learn of the name behind the headlines and what it means to ordinary Cubans. I don’t want to give anything away but it a very interesting last chapter of the journey.
The title may say ‘Slow Train to Guantanamo’ but it is anything but slow. This book may be about a country stuck in the past but it really shows snippets of a country slowly changing and moving towards the future.

Let’s hope the trains get there too.

Cuba is Cuba after all.

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