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Sarah Rainsford

Our Woman in Havana

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It was only when I reread Our Man in Havana that I realised I shared a street with the hapless spy hero of Graham Greene’s novel. My office was just a short distance from the fictional vacuum cleaner store run by Jim Wormold… A piece of paper strapped to the swirling, rusted window bars announces that the lower floor flat is for sale. I wonder if the owner’s selling up to leave Lamparilla and the ‘ruins of Havana’, like Wormold.

Sixty years ago, Graham Greene watched as the Cuban revolution unfolded and Batista’s regime collapsed. Now, as the Castro era comes to a close, Sarah Rainsford, formerly the BBC’s ‘woman in Havana’, reports on the lives shaped by Fidel’s giant social experiment and the feelings of a nation as his brother Raul steps down.

She encounters entrepreneurs full of hope and the disillusioned still looking for a way out. She meets a boxing legend who credits everything he has to the revolution and the dissidents caught on surveillance cameras every time they set foot outside their homes.

She also discovers the trailblazing work of Ruby Hart Phillips, New York Times correspondent in Havana 1937–61 – and a rare woman journalist in a macho world – who reported every step of the revolution and came face to face with Fidel himself.

Through these stories and those still being told, Our Woman in Havana weaves an enthralling, atmospheric portrait of this enigmatic country as it teeters, once more, at a historic crossroads.
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