Mike's Reviews > The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
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I almost quit this a few times in the first 50 or 150 pages, and I guess I'm glad I didn't.

About 40% of this is really really bad, and monotonous to read. That includes all of the sex scenes (which make up about 30% of the book), and the narrator's really weird and disturbing fixation on the protagonist's member (which take up about another 10%).

But the other 60% was amazingly good, beautiful, evocative, lyrical, excellent writing about NYC in the 1950s and 60s, and Cuba in the 1930s and 40s. And the life of Cuban musicians and immigrant families in NYC and that whole social and cultural milieu. When he writes about these things, or about food, or music, the writing is just about as good as fiction writing gets.

So that's a shame, I guess. I imagine maybe all of the crudity and monotony in 40% of the book is some kind of literary device designed to show ... something? If so, it didn't work on me. I still have to give it 3 stars, for the outstanding quality of some of it. Too bad, because a lot of this had 5-star potential, I thought. And there's definitely no reason for a story this simple to be 400 pages long.
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