Catalina (Editorial Renacimiento) by Cuban-born author Mario Coyula celebrates the frustration of searching for the impossible. The novel describes the quest of a man for an extremely beautiful woman who died before he was born and is based on the real-life figure of Catalina de Lasa (1875-1930), considered the most beautiful woman in Havana’s Belle Èpoque at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The text is mainly written in long monologues of the three main characters, Catalina, the Husband and the Architect; with frequent overlapping as the architect follows the trail of the couple. He also remembers his own childhood and youth in the 1940s and 1950s. The story covers a social sector and a historical period that has usually been presented in Cuba with a schematic and distorted approach. It depicts the values, habits and lifestyle of the Cuban upper bourgeoisie from aristocratic descent, a social class that was displaced from economic and political power three times between 1868-1959.
Pat Nixon remains one of our most mysterious and intriguing public figures, the only modern First Lady who never wrote a memoir. Ann Beattie, like many of her generation, dismissed Richard Nixon’s wife. Decades later, she wonders what it must have been like to be married to such a spectacularly ambitious and catastrophically self-destructive man. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Beattie reconstructs dozens of scenes in an attempt to see the world from Mrs. Nixon’s point of view. This fascinating and intimate account offers readers a rare glimpse into the imagination of a writer. Mrs. Nixon (Scribner, $26) is a startlingly compelling and revelatory work.