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Beautiful Maria of My Soul

3.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  561 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
In 1950s Manhattan, Nestor and Cesar Castillo play the sumptuous mambo beats of their native Cuba, where their biggest hit, “Beautiful Maria of My Soul,” earns them a spot on “I Love Lucy” –but their hopes for the future are dashed by a tragic accident. Hijuelos returns to the story of his Pulitzer-Prize winning The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, this time telling it from ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,512)
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Harold
May 19, 2012 Harold rated it it was amazing
Shelves: latin-america
Bravo Hijuelos!! I flat out LOVED this book! For the first time in a long time finishing a book left me sorry it was over. What am I going to read next that will go down that smoothly?

The book is the story of the beautiful love interest from The Mambo Kings Sing Songs Of Love. It that book she was a peripheral but important character in that she was the inspiration for a hit song, the title of which is Beautiful Maria Of My Soul, written by Nestor Castillo, one of two brothers who are the focus
...more
Siria
God, this was dreadful. The only way this book could have been more a straight male fantasy is if it had been narrated by a penis—and believe me, there enough descriptions of improbably huge penises in Beautiful María of my Soul that such a narrative device wouldn't have been an enormous stretch. The protagonist, María, is a man's bland idea of a beautiful woman; I never believed in her as a real person. Her great love affair with Nestor seems to be based mostly on the fact that they're both goo ...more
Tara Chevrestt
Halfway thru the reading of this novel, I had to drop it and run to the computer and open itunes where I proceeded to listen to The Mambo Kings for what may have been the first time in my life. My interest was picqued. I didn't buy this book to learn about the Mambo Kings. I got it cause the subject matter appealed to me. Maria, a Cuban woman so beautiful, she inspired a hit song...

Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed reading about the beginnings of the Mambo Kings, about love struck Nestor and arr
...more
Laura
Jan 03, 2015 Laura rated it it was ok
This is historical fiction and a sequel to The Mambo Kings, telling the story of the Maria behind the Castillo's bolero "Beautiful Maria of My Soul". The problem for me was, I didn't care. Perhaps by design, Maria is a cold character - beautiful, at first naive, and just, well, not a character I related to at all. Her choices, her life, her problems, nothing made me really care about her.

Perhaps if I'd read The Mambo Kings I'd feel differently but since I didn't read it...

ARC provided by publish
...more
Lorraine
Oct 16, 2014 Lorraine rated it liked it
In 1990, Oscar Hujuelos wrote “The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love” and won a Pulitzer Prize. I didn’t read that book about the Castillo brothers, but “Beautiful Maria of My Soul” tells the story of the woman who captured the heart of Nestor Castillo, who with his brother Cesar left Cuba for New York and eventually became popular Cuban musicians due to Desi Arnez who featured them on “I Love Lucy.” Nestor and Maria were madly in love, but Maria chose to live with a man who gave her more security ...more
Abbey
Oct 13, 2010 Abbey rated it did not like it
I stopped reading this book. I stopped reading it because the author described, in almost every scene, the main character's vagina. I'm all for vaginas, you see, but sometimes there can be too much... vagina.
Vagina, vagina, vagina.
See what I mean?
Mag
Sep 04, 2010 Mag rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, cuba
Just when I decided that this book was a complete waste of my time, the author appeared in the novel creating an interesting intrusion of non-fiction into fiction, and the story somewhat redeemed itself.

Designed as a sequel to Mambo Kings, the novel is about the object of Nestor’s love- Beautiful Maria. Beautiful Maria is, as the name suggests, beautiful. An illiterate peasant girl, fairly reasonable and levelheaded, Beautiful Maria makes her way up in the dance clubs of Havana, but there is ne
...more
Bill
Dec 22, 2010 Bill rated it liked it
Several themes are intertwined in this not totally successful novel. Among them is the fictional biography of Beautiful Maria, her career, her lovers, and most importantly, the love she has for her daughter Teresita. Another theme is Maria's love of country especially a valley in Pinar del Rio, her family home. This is offset by a description of Havana's seedy side before the Castro revolution. Finally, there is the song, Beautiful Maria of My Soul written by her dreamy and extremely passionate ...more
Christie
Sep 16, 2010 Christie rated it did not like it
Nope.
Florinda
Mar 01, 2012 Florinda rated it it was ok
I read Oscar Hijuelos' award-winning novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love nearly 20 years ago, when it was first published, and never gave much thought to its having a sequel. But when I learned that it had one - told from the perspective of the woman who inspired the fictional Castillo brothers best-known song, Beautiful Maria of My Soul - I remembered enough about the original novel to be interested.

Maria is a woman who seems to exist primarily under the male gaze; her most remarkable qual
...more
Pete Dematteo
Oct 28, 2014 Pete Dematteo rated it really liked it
once again, reading Oscar hijuelos is like sitting in some old timer's living room on southwest calle 8, or under the palms in his back yard, with a cup of delicious Cuban coffee, and having some old lady in a housedress bringing out pastels to nibble on.

Maria was certainly a beautiful woman, but she was attracted to the wrong types of men because she was a victim of incest by her papi. As a young lady, she had been quite sensitive indeed, despite the abuse, but Havana ruined her. She seemed to
...more
Cherri-Anne
Aug 19, 2016 Cherri-Anne rated it did not like it
I decided to read this book in spite of the mixed reviews. Readers either loved it or hated it and there was very little middle ground. I unfortunately am in the "hated it" camp. As much as I tried to appreciate how Hijuelos beautifully described Havana in its heyday or even Maria for that matter, I just could not get past the gratuitous sex and the many euphemisms (in English and Spanish no less) for male and female anatomy. I am by no means a prude but enough already!

Aside from that, the stor
...more
Linda
Aug 06, 2010 Linda rated it really liked it
I hadn't read a lot of books about the Cuban experience, so this book taught me several things about the culture and what Maria does to leave her poor background. The author won the Pulitzer for his first book "Mambo Kings," in which Maria appears, and I was eager to read what happened to her. She's a very complex character. Warning -some people might be put off by how risque the book is.
Chitra Divakaruni
May 21, 2012 Chitra Divakaruni rated it liked it
A great read on many levels, with some serious shortcomings that might bother feminist readers. Be prepared for graphic sex scenes. Hijuelos' great strength lie in recreating a place, a time and a culture. See the review I wrote for the Portland Oregonian here: http://www.oregonlive.com/books/index...
Brenda
Jun 12, 2010 Brenda rated it liked it
The guy can tell a story, but the story lacked depth. Unrequited love, love for the sake of money, sex equals love are universal themes presented here with some passion. The only character I really loved was Maria's reading maestro. And even he was so bewitched by her beauty that he didn't criticize her.
Lovett.nicholas
May 15, 2015 Lovett.nicholas rated it liked it
I thought this was a solid book but that Hijuelos rested on his artistic laurels. He returns to the same themes as "The Mambo Kings" but this time from the perspective of a minor character, Beautiful Maria, an idealized woman who is halfway between the Chiquita Banana lady and a saucy estrella from a prime-time Spanish soap opera.

Maria is "un guajira y unalfabeta" an illiterate country girl who lucked into some pretty impressive physical gifts. The book opens as she hitchhikes to Havana, eventua
...more
Michael Brockley
Jan 12, 2015 Michael Brockley rated it it was amazing
Oscar Hijuelos' BEAUTIFUL MARIA OF MY SOUL is, in fact, a beautiful sequel to his Pulitzer-Prize winning THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE. This is the story of Maria Rivera, the glorious Cuban beauty who inspired the Mambo Kings' classic hit record. Hijuelos tale reads like a man's romance novel, graphic and laden with machismo. Yet this is also the biography (this is a work of fiction) of a woman whose beauty inspired one of Latin music's most beloved boleros. The reader lives Maria's live fr ...more
Amy
Jul 03, 2010 Amy added it
I give up. I made it about 1/3 in and that's it. A lightbulb went off and I realized, I don't HAVE to keep going. I can stop.
Anyone looking for this new title? I'm going to put it on swap...
Cindy
Jul 19, 2010 Cindy rated it did not like it
This book is boring and repetitive. It was tiresome hearing how the character thought she was so beautiful and oversexed.
Adriana
Nov 04, 2014 Adriana rated it liked it
I thought this book was entertaining enough. I identified with a lot of the latin cultural norms. For instance, the way the older generations of women stressed beauty over anything else in women. I always hated that there was no emphasis on the female population to seek education or a career. That was the reason I found Maria to be a bad role model for women. She pretty much leaned on her looks to get everything she had. There was no real urge to get an education although she did make it a point ...more
Linda
Jul 29, 2010 Linda rated it did not like it
Author is fixated with the sexual act and abuse of women; it got very tiring.
Pamela
Dec 13, 2015 Pamela rated it liked it
Fictional story of the women who inspired the song "beautiful Maria of my soul" featured in the 1999 movie Mambo Kings. Tells of her rural Cuban upbringing prior to being a featured dancer in pre-Castro Havana nightclubs. Her instinct for self-preservation wins over her romantic infatuations. Her shallow descriptions maker her hard to like as a character and there is a great deal of time spent on her sexual life and an overly convenient ending for me to rate this over 3 stars, but was an interes ...more
Stephanie Pounds
Dec 02, 2014 Stephanie Pounds rated it liked it
Shelves: your, library
About a month ago I scored a copy of Beautiful Maria of My Soul as part of LibraryThing?s early Reviewer program. I decided the first thing I needed to do was read [The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love]. I?m glad I did. The two books belong together?two versions of the same story?and it was good to read the original first. Beautiful Maria of My Soul tells the story of Maria Garcia y Cifuentes, the woman who broke Nestor Castillo?s heart in Mambo Kings. It follows her from her childhood as a poor, ...more
J.T. Dutton
Jun 28, 2010 J.T. Dutton rated it it was amazing
I passionately loved Mambo Kings Played Songs of Love. Beautiful Maria of My Soul, settling into the negative space of Mambo Kings deals with a darker deck of cards. The sex between Beautiful Maria and her many lovers including Nestor Castillo is magically erotic in its beginnings but becomes less satisfactory as the pages turn, as if we the readers age with beautiful Maria and begin to see the world and her character with harder eyes.
A writer who risks distance from his main character and subj
...more
Asferdinand
Feb 21, 2012 Asferdinand rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this and just didn't. I did enjoy the writing, but there was no plot at all. Maria is with this guy. And then she isn't. Then she's with another dude. And then not. Then she has a daughter. Etc etc. Also, have I mentioned she's beautiful? Because she's beautiful. SHE'S REALLY REALLY BEAUTIFUL. REALLY. But the writing and depictions of Cuba and specifically Havana were fantastic. I'm also very intrigued by the tie-in with Hijuelos' first book--I want to read it, but I'm af ...more
Jessica Knauss
Mar 28, 2011 Jessica Knauss rated it liked it
At times, Maria reminded me of the mother in The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, unsympathetic, one-dimensional, and living in the past, but then at other times, principally when she's convincing herself that she loves Nestor, she seems an enchantingly hopeless romantic. So she has two sides, but the other characters don't develop and we only ever see one side of them. I almost dare to think that, like the Oscar Wao book, the author has no real sympathy for female characters. They remain t ...more
Abi
Beautiful Maria of My Soul is the sex-filled story of a true love lost. The story follows Maria, an exceptional beauty, from when she leaves the countryside, an illiterate, at 16 through her glamorous young adulthood and into her mellow middle aged time in Miami with her daughter. The title of the book is the name of a song that her true love, Nestor Castillo, writes about her and which becomes famous. Her fame due to this song (introduced in Hijuelos's prior novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of ...more
Mona
Apr 26, 2012 Mona rated it really liked it
I liked the book. One of those books that gets in your head and your thinking about the characters and story while you go about your day.
From Bookmarks magazine:
"Though Beautiful Maria of My Soul may not match the emotional depth of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, critics generally considered Hijuelos's new novel a success. A seasoned storyteller, Hijuelos vividly evokes the vibrant lost world of prerevolutionary Havana, the Cuban Revolution, and modern-day Miami, and he audaciously insert
...more
Deb
Jan 02, 2011 Deb rated it really liked it
Shelves: women, fiction
I have to admit that it has been so many years since I read "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love" that I barely remembered that the song "Beatiful Maria of My Soul" helped to make the Castillo brothers famous. The story of Maria, the woman who inspired Nestor Castillo to write the song, begins in a small village in Cuba where Maria lived with her family, then moves with Maria to Havana, where she met and fell in love with Nestor, and eventually to Miami, where Maria raises her daughter and reflec ...more
Michael
Pleasantly lyrical and erotic tale of a country girl making her way in a big city, in this case pre-Castro Havana in the 50s. This both a prequel and sequel to the marvelous Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Hijuelos Pulitzer Prize winning novel from 1989 and basis of a 1992 movie. Maria at 17 has beauty astounding enough to make traffic stop, and she soon starts a career as an exotic dancer. The lost world of Havana nightlife and culture is nicely portrayed. Marias sexual and romantic adventures ...more
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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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