The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis


(Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)

An adult fiction pick by Jean-Louis

The Gods of Tango begins in Italy with a young woman boarding a ship bound for Argentina. Young Leda is going to meet Dante, her husband, to start their lives together in a new land. The time is 1913 and the new world beckons as a place of opportunity but what Leda discovers upon her arrival is anything but what she had expected.

Before he set out ahead of her, Dante had courted his neighbour and cousin, promising to have her come be with him in Argentina. Once in the new world, Dante found himself struggling to make ends meet, trying to assert his rights as a worker, and finding his way in a violent political circumstance.When he gets thrown in with anarchist worker protests Dante must face dire consequences.

When she arrives in Argentina, Leda discovers that Dante has been killed during a worker protest. Far from her family, Leda is befriended by other Italian immigrants and it is here that Leda decides to forge her own future. The novel is full of border crossings of all sorts. Leda has left her family for another sort of family, she has crossed the ocean, crossed language barriers, and in her struggle to make her way in the world faces many unforeseen challenges.

At first Leda joins the women of her rooming house–the conventilla–in plying her needle to earn her keep, but in her trunk is the true key to the future. It is a violin her father had gifted to her for her husband Dante. This violin has a great pedigree and once belonged to the King of Naples. In Argentina, Leda harnesses the power of music and it is tango that she creates herself anew. The music shared by the residents of the rooming house is the emerging tango. This music is at its infancy in 1913 Argentina, and Leda finds a way to join its rhythms.  But to join the world of tango, Leda must cross yet another border–the gender barrier. As a respectable woman she is barred from playing music or in joining the world of tango. She sheds her former identity and becomes “Dante” a prodigious tanguero violinist.

The novel follows Leda / Dante as she rises in the world of tango. The masquerade of gender will lead her into some fascinating and passionate adventures! Read the novel, try a little time-travel to the ascendancy of tango, and join novelist de Robertis on a fine literary adventure.



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