Soulfully evocative and painfully beautiful glimpse into the world of two Cuban immigrant musicians who come to this country in 1949. The book is alive with the sounds and feel of Cuban music and provided a fascinating portrait of a culture I was not familiar with. The book throbbed with passion and timid readers may be alarmed by the graphic descriptions of the Mambo King's extremely active sex life! Nevertheless this is one fantastic book, gorgeously written and deeply moving.
The story attempts to portrays a very thin slice of life: the alleged life of Cuban musicians in exile, and I'm not sure why it merited a Pulitzer Prize. But I read it with interest to the end because the characters were so well developed. If you saw the movie, do not compare the movie with the book. We saw the movie last night. The movie was really shallow by comparison to the book. The characters in the book are more fully developed; sometimes to their detriment. It was a worthy read, but difficult to maintain sympathy for the major character.
I wasn't prepared for all the sex in this book. Oh my goodness, there is so much talk about this guy's "pinga" that you'd think the whole book was about it. I think the constant mentioning of sexual positions detracted from the story as a whole. It's a shame because the story, itself, wasn't bad - quite touching while describing the relationship between a man and his brother. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone because it does drag quite a big and there's a lot of repetition in what the author says.
I know this one won a Pulitzer, but I didn't find it all that riveting. I liked his first book better, Our House in the Last World. If reading about the size of a man's equipment isn't your thing, then skip this one.
Jenny M. - , reviewed The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love on
What follows is actually a review of the movie based on the book, which describes the story so much better than the book cover. It's been years since I've read it, but it was engaging and a great period piece for 50s Cuban influence. After reading the book, the movie was equally enjoyable and true to its source.
This period drama is hot, hot, hot. Stylish and sexy, it is adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Oscar Hijuelos, the story of two brothers who flee from Cuba in the early 1950s, heading for New York. Hoping to make a name for themselves as famous musicians, the duo face hardships and painful discoveries along the way. Armand Assante is the older of the two, with a smoldering Antonio Banderas as his younger, more impetuous brother. (In his first English-speaking role, Banderas delivered all of his lines phonetically.) The pulsating, sweaty energy of the first half of the film is not sustained throughout. Partly this is because a movie about the rise and fall of minor celebrities has been done to death. Even when the action slows down, however, the story does not bore. There is too much sensuality and vitality exuded by both Assante and Banderas. --Rochelle O'Gorman