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Empress of the Splendid Season

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  386 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Oscar Hijuelos vividly brings to life the joys, desires, and disappointment of American life witnessed through the experience of a formerly prosperous Cuban émigré named Lydia Espana—now a cleaning woman in New York. In magnetic prose, he juxtaposes Lydia's tale with the stories of her clients, contrasting her experiences with the secret lives of those for whom she works. ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 23rd 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published 1999)
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Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos EireOur Man in Havana by Graham GreeneDreaming in Cuban by Cristina GarcíaThe Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar HijuelosBefore Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
Books About Cuba/Cubans
31st out of 116 books — 76 voters
The Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilThe Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria RilkeJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëSiddhartha by Hermann HessePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Books to be Savored
163rd out of 202 books — 87 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 643)
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Tara Chevrestt
I was enthralled with Hijuelos's upcoming release, Beautiful Maria of My Soul so when I ran across this in the library, I literally jumped up and down and made some gleeful noises. However, Hijuelos's previous work, namely this particular novel, did not live up to my expectations.

Around page 125 or thereabouts I started wondering.. "What is the plot? What the heck is this about, really?" It's written somewhat like a biography about a fictional Cuban American maid, Lydia. Lydia cleans rich peopl
...more
Karis North
Jun 23, 2013 Karis North rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookgroup
Meh. Too many short vignettes. Not enough plot or flow. Felt like I was always being distracted. Wanted Moore Cuba, less Bronx.
Karen
Sep 15, 2010 Karen rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful book! This woman is from Cuba--she was banished by her angry father for a youthful sexual indiscretion. She lives in Spanish Harlem and works for a wealthy NYC family. The story tells about her family--her husband who calls her his "Empress--of the splendid season which is love" and has a chronic illness which limits his $$ contributions to the family. Her children struggle to grow up with varying amts of pain and drama--it all adds up to another wonderful read. She works so ha ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Aug 10, 2015 Roger DeBlanck rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Hijuelos takes a discerning and compassionate look at the struggles Cuban immigrants must face between assimilation and preserving cultural identity in his novel Empress of the Splendid Season. It tells the story of Lydia and Raul Espana, Cuban immigrants living in New York City. Lydia cleans houses and Raul waits tables. The novel recognizes conflicts among cultures, splits between generations, the role of women in society, and the decay of values. Hijuelos charts the hardworking life of Lydia ...more
Alicia Tompkins
May 13, 2014 Alicia Tompkins rated it it was ok
Recommended to Alicia by: no one
The book was descriptive of the main characters fall from limited glory, her coming to terms or not with that, her relationship with her children and the people she worked for. I found it interesting in sort of an anthropological way but I was not drawn into any of the characters.
Sarah Breidenbach
Nov 26, 2013 Sarah Breidenbach rated it liked it
Somewhat interesting, but completely lacking drama and suspense.
Heli
Jul 29, 2014 Heli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Kirjan nimi ja kansi ovat sellaiset, etten olisi muuten tullut tarttuneeksi kirjaan, ellen olisi löytänyt sitä yliopiston kirjaston kahvilasta. Ilmeni, että nide on kiertävä BookCrossing-kirja. Otin sen mukaani, vaikka takakansiteksti oli ällöttävän adjektiivinen. Nyt kahden vuoden säilyttelyn jälkeen sain vihdoinkin luettua kirjan loppuun.

Kirja koostuu enimmäkseen lyhyistä episodeista, joissa kerrotaan välähdyksiä kuubalaistaustaisen siivoojattaren elämästä Yhdysvalloissa. Merkitsin romaanin my
...more
Olivia
Jun 15, 2009 Olivia rated it it was ok
I keep thinking maybe I didn't get what I was supposed to get out of this book. I kept waiting for something plot-like to happen, and it never really seemed to. It jumps around chronologically and I couldn't figure out why. Perhaps there were common themes connecting the vignettes, but if so they weren't obvious to me. I wondered if the time-jumping was just to make it seem like there was more to the book. I finished it and said, "That's it?" I still recommended it to a few family members. I tho ...more
Hanna Douaud
Vähän tylsä mutta väkevä
Karen
Jul 24, 2009 Karen rated it it was amazing
I took this out of Elizabeth's famous book box. It actually looked dull and doesn't start fast, but I'm hooked. I love books about people who are very average but with some kind of special spark. I shouldn't have picked this up right now though. I need to start and /or finsh three others.


Finished some time ago-- WOW! I wish I could find a copy of Mambo Kings. The Empress is a wonderful book-- now one of my very favorites. Many books I love but don't press on others. This one though-- READ IT!!!
Whitney
Oct 10, 2011 Whitney rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There is something beautiful about following this woman's life as a New York house cleaner, but it doesn't exactly push forward very quickly and it seems to lack in plot. I thought it was good but I subtracted a star because I don't know who I would recommend it to. I suppose I would give it to an avid reader who is looking for something slow and steady, but if I tried to give it to a young adult I can almost guarantee they would get bored with it.
Marguerite
Aug 18, 2008 Marguerite rated it liked it
I liked it, but nowhere near as much as I expected I would. Lydia comes off as more annoying than anything else -- unless it's haughty without reason. A couple of scenes in the latter third of the book -- one involving voyeurism and the other religion -- seem gratuitous, even faked. The pacing was decent, and there was a nice story arc. I especially liked the New York details.
itpdx
Jun 09, 2011 itpdx rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing much happens in this book--just a whole life time. Lydia is a delightful woman who comes from a privileged Cuban family. She ends up as a cleaning woman in New York City. She has her strengths and weaknesses (why must we repeat the errors of our parents when we raise our own children?). Senor Hijuelos is good story teller.
Kristin
Dec 14, 2007 Kristin rated it liked it
Pretty good book about the immigrant experience. Reading it while living in Berlin, I can really relate to alot of the language difficulties that the characters deal with. I thought it would have more of a magic-realist element so I was disappointed in that vein.
Ak
May 21, 2009 Ak rated it it was ok
eh... it was not well shaped, and the omniscient voice wasn't very convincing; sometimes its tone was jarringly current. Still, I liked it better than most novels that are so devoid of dialogue, and the characters were reasonably absorbing.
Steph
Aug 02, 2008 Steph rated it it was amazing
How I love the beautiful prose and finely constructed sentences of Oscar Hijuelos. Then there are his characters! Lydia is a rich (if sometimes shallow) character whom the reader cares about.
Glenna
Aug 29, 2012 Glenna rated it liked it
The main character is fascinating and all the characters and situations are very believable. I really enjoyed the author's asides and commentaries about New York and the culture.
Jackie
Apr 08, 2008 Jackie rated it it was amazing
LOVE this book, and love other works by this author! I read it while laying on the beach in Chicago and got terribly sunburned because I kept reading and lost track of time.
Crystal
Jan 07, 2011 Crystal rated it it was ok
I loved one of his later works - Beautiful Maria of My Soul. One of his first works, Empress of the Splendid Season, just wasn't as good. I couldn't even finish it.
Martine Taylor
Somewhat disjointed and unfortunately lacks some of the energy of the Mambo Kings. Liked the mom reflecting on her life, her marriage, kids, aging.
Bonnie G
I have enjoyed this author in the past and I love the NYC setting, but the plot just lingers, moving forward by millimeters.
Jack Goodstein
Apr 30, 2010 Jack Goodstein rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Story of Cuban cleaning lady's struggles to make a life in the United States.


Georgiana
Feb 27, 2013 Georgiana rated it really liked it
A tugging, poignant account of the immigrant experience in America.
Laura Edwards
Oct 31, 2014 Laura Edwards rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Beautifully written. My favorite of all his books.
Nissa Gossom
Dec 01, 2015 Nissa Gossom rated it did not like it
Hated it, could finish it
Rachel Sharf
Feb 28, 2010 Rachel Sharf rated it really liked it
One of my favorite books.
Terri Too
Terri Too rated it liked it
Feb 07, 2016
Cecile
Cecile rated it liked it
Feb 03, 2016
Maria Bianchi
Maria Bianchi marked it as to-read
Feb 02, 2016
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Oscar Hijuelos (born August 24, 1951) is an American novelist. He is the first Hispanic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Hijuelos was born in New York City, in Morningside Heights, Manhattan, to Cuban immigrant parents. He attended the Corpus Christi School, public schools, and later attended Bronx Community College, Lehman College, and Manhattan Community College before matriculating into and
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