From one of the leading lights of contemporary Latin American literature - a lush, lyrical, deeply moving story of a young woman whose passion for the early sounds of tango becomes a force of profound and unexpected change.
February 1913: seventeen-year-old Leda, carrying only a small trunk and her father's cherished violin, leaves her Italian village for a new home, and a new husband, in Argentina. Arriving in Buenos Aires, she discovers that he has been killed, but she remains: living in a tenement, without friends or family, on the brink of destitution. Still, she is seduced by the music that underscores life in the city: tango, born from lower-class immigrant voices, now the illicit, scandalous dance of brothels and cabarets. Leda eventually acts on a long-held desire to master the violin, knowing that she can never play in public as a woman. She cuts off her hair, binds her breasts, and becomes "Dante," a young man who joins a troupe of tango musicians bent on conquering the salons of high society. Now, gradually, the lines between Leda and Dante begin to blur, and feelings that she has long kept suppressed reveal themselves, jeopardizing not only her musical career, but her life.
Richly evocative of place and time, its prose suffused with the rhythms of the tango, its narrative at once resonant and gripping, this is De Robertis's most accomplished novel yet.
©2015 Carolina De Robertis (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"De Robertis brings a beautiful voice to the history and intensity of the tango in this coming-of-age romance of early-twentieth-century Buenos Aires.... None of the passion is lost in De Robertis's narration. Character differentiation is almost flawless, and De Robertis's accent adds much to the flavor of the setting and the characters.... De Robertis's narration is so good that, while there are technically no voicings, each character seems almost as distinct as those performed by a narrator using multiple voices." (AudioFile)
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Caroline de Robertis is a new author to me. I listened to a podcast interview of her regarding this book and decided to give it a try. Robertis parents emigrated from Uruguay to England where she grew up; she has also lived in Switzerland and now in California.
Leda Mazzani leaves a small Italian village to join her husband Dante in Buenos Aires. When she arrives she finds Dante is dead. She resolves to make a life for herself in Buenos Aires, but finds no work available to women except prostitution. So she dons Donte’s clothes, takes his name, finds a job in a cigarette factory and plays the Tango on her heirloom violin at night. She catches the ear of a successful band leader and joins his band.
The author describes the lives of working class Argentineans circa 1913. The novel is true to its time and manages to be engrossing and believable. The book is well written, it has a lyrical sentences that make it a poetic read. The author writes beautiful descriptions of the scenery and the prose is suffused with the rhythms of the Tango. The author provides a fantastic history of the tango, the music of the lower class Argentineans. The Tango is now all the rage in France so the upper class Argentineans decide they must embrace the Tango also. The book is easy to read and provides a glimpse at another time and culture. There is a bit more sex in the book than I prefer. The author narrates the book.
Transport yourself to Argentina. A must read. Makes you want to read more of Tango, immigrants and life in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Excellent work Carolina.
I thought this would be a pretty straightforward girl-power story about a woman disguising herself as a man to achieve her goals, a la Tamora Pierce, but it turned out to be so much more than that. Exploring issues of gender identity, sex, power, class, race, immigration, etc etc, it's engrossing and beautifully written. My only real criticism is that the language can be a bit heavy handed at times, but overall it didn't bother me too much.
On another note, I have no idea what the other reviewer was talking about when she said there are no good men in the book. The book is full of good men along with bad, and the same goes for the female characters. The idea that the book is man-hating only makes sense if you look at the story on its absolute shallowest level.
The history of Italian immigration to Argentina, the marvelous details of conventillo life and the evolution of Tango all weave together masterfully to form a vivid tapestry in this novel.
My disappointment? That De Robertis broad brushed the entire male gender in her attempt to shed light on the plight of women in the very macho Latin cultures of Italy, Spain and Argentina.
As a woman whose father's family hails from Campania and whose mother's people from Buenos Aires, I am a product of these very complex cultures and social/religious mores. I promise you that not all men are mujeriegos, or raping and pillaging their daughters!
While delving into the mirky issues of sexuality, I believe that to have all the main female characters in her book take solace in lesbian relationships as a way to flee the supposed horrific influence of Latin men, is absurd!
For De Robertis to lay claim that her female characters were lust filled women whose desires could only be sated by the likes of "Dante" (aka Ledda) and her fingers? Ridiculous! As a heterosexual woman I found this demeaning of men.
Shame that the author was unable (perhaps due to her own past trauma?) to develop a male character who was fully integrated: kind, honorable, sexually loving and faithful, strong, loyal and with human quirks and foibles. If De Robertis had been able to create at least one redeeming male character like that, I would have found her exploration of sexuality more credible.
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