Like China Girls

Naomi Fry

  • The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
    Harvill Secker, 400 pp, £16.99, June 2013, ISBN 978 1 84655 791 0

Telex from Cuba, Rachel Kushner’s first novel, was set in the American colony in Oriente Province in the years leading up to the revolution. It described a place in which many had very little and a few had a great deal: indentured plantation workers and Castro’s rebels but also anxious American housewives, dissatisfied middle-managers and the vulnerable children of mining and sugar-cane executives. Not only the miserable of the earth were miserable. Capitalism, imperialism, oppressive gender roles: Kushner was equally fired up by them all, and where better than 1950s Cuba to show their universal depredations? But the novel managed to be political without being ideological: the characters are determined by the conditions they labour under, just not in the way dogma tells us they ought to be. Those who suffer most aren’t the only ones who suffer.

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