White Rose (Una Rosa Blanca)

Written by Amy Ephron
Review by Alexandra Ceely

Evangelina Cisneros is a political prisoner in a women’s prison in Havana in 1897 when Charles Duval arrives ostensibly to interview her for his American newspaper. In reality, his name is Karl Decker, and he has been sent by William Randolph Hearst to rescue her from the clutches of the evil Spanish empire. In the states, Evangelina has become a cause célêbre among the upper class ladies, a symbol of innocent Cuban womanhood crushed by the heavy hand of the Spanish overlords. This is the story of her rescue, and the relationship that grows between her and Karl.

The novel is based on the true story of Evangelina Cisneros. Ephron considers her a forgotten a heroine of the Cuban revolution. The story is told in short, vivid chapters in many points of view. In the course of the story we meet Charles and Evangelina in the prison. We also meet Charles’ wife, Katherine, waiting patiently in the states for her husband to return from yet another of his mysterious assignments. We meet Evangelina’s father, Augustin Cossio, a leader of the revolution revered more for his age than his ideals. We meet Carlos, Evangelina’s fiery and idealistic fiancé. Amidst the stories of these people, we learn of the aims and ideals of the revolution: to drive the Spanish out of Cuba without becoming pawns of the Americans. Evangelina finds herself torn between Karl Decker and his powerful American resources and Carlos’ fear of the Americans.

I found myself wishing we were told more about Katherine Decker and her struggles in the states. I wanted to know in more detail what Karl and Evangelina were feeling. The short chapters, while vivid, were static, the story seem as if it were told in snapshots. There was never enough time to really get into the characters, especially with the bouncing point of view. Perhaps the original stories appearing in Hearst’s newspapers would make more interesting reading.