Jane Mendelsohn

  • The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
    Penguin, 416 pp, £4.99, November 1990, ISBN 0 14 014391 2
  • The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O’Brien by Oscar Hijuelos
    Hamish Hamilton, 484 pp, £15.99, July 1993, ISBN 0 241 13431 5

Ricky Ricardo, Lucy’s famously strict yet malleable husband in the I Love Lucy show, embodied an elegant Latin machismo which was constantly being undermined by the wiles of the American princess. He had romance and charm and a first-generation scepticism, but he was no competition for the native white girl who just wanted to have some fun. Lucy, the beloved, in her perpetually clean apron and pouty lipstick, represented a philosophy of fun. Anything could happen in her black-and-white living-room; the world seemed to expand with the curl of her lip or an exaggerated wink of her eye. Life was an Emersonian dream of possibility held in check only by the reality principle, which came, oddly enough, in the form of a Cuban nightclub singer who spoke with a silly, sexy accent and played a big drum.

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