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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jean on 07-24-15
A rousing tale
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.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful