What’s it all about?:
One day Oscar Kortico wakes to find himself utterly alone in the world. As the sole descendant of his family line he is not sure what to do or where he should go, but in the midst of this uncertainty, he holds fast to what his grandfather always told him: ‘No man knows who he is until he knows his past, the history of his country.’
As he sets out to find the lost village of Pata de Puerco and the meaning of the magical pig’s-foot amulet he has inherited, the search for his country’s hidden history becomes entangled with his search for the truth about himself.
Through a vivid, if not entirely reliable, retelling of the stories of his ancestors we live the tumultuous history of Cuba through Oscar’s eyes, from the arrival of slaves through the wars of independence, to Bacardi rum, dictatorship, revolution and, finally, to a freedom of sorts.
What did I think?:
Pig’s Foot is the last novel that I read in the group dubbed The Waterstones Eleven for 2013. Please see my previous post HERE for information and the reviews of the other ten novels. My interest in this book was piqued not only because it was part of the Waterstones Eleven, but because the author is principally known for being a Cuban born British ballet dancer. As a dancer, he won numerous awards for his roles and was also a member of the Royal Ballet in London. More recently, he was appointed Commander of the order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 New Years Honours List for his services to ballet. No Way Home – A Cuban Dancer’s Story, published in 2007 tells the story of his rise from poverty in Havana to becoming the lead male ballet dancer in the world. But is he any good as a novelist?
The narrator for this story is a young(ish) man called Oscar Kortico who is desperate to find out where he comes from, historically speaking. He has in his possession a lucky amulet in the form of a pig’s foot and he proceeds to tell us the story of a hidden village in Cuba called Pata de Puerco and how he came to discover the story of his ancestors and the meaning behind the mysterious pig’s foot. Oscar’s story begins in Cuba in the 1800’s and he takes us through the politics and history of his country seen through the eyes of four generations of the same family, from the days when slavery was the norm to the present times when Oscar takes over to tell his own story. I really enjoyed reading about the history of Cuba in this way, although I was less interested in the politics side. At times however the factual information appeared in little chunks in peculiar places and sometimes this interrupted the general flow of the story-telling. Our narrator Oscar also seems slightly unreliable but this is an intentional ploy by the author that leads to quite a dramatic and unexpected ending. While I do think that Pig’s Foot is an impressive debut, and there are moments of genuinely high-quality writing I wasn’t blown away by it and found the fantastical elements a bit hard to swallow.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
COMING UP: The Waterstones Eleven 2013 Round Up – What Did I Think?