The Gods of Tango

The Gods of Tango

Book - 2015
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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.
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2015
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781101874493
Branch Call Number: FIC DeRob
Characteristics: 367 pages


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PimaLib_JessicaP Feb 20, 2018

I'm glad I had to read this for the Rainbow Reads book club, else I might have bowed out early on. The prose is captivating, compelling, and spellbinding, but the events of the first third of the book are...let's just go with traumatic. (There are several content warnings that should go along with this book, including discussions—though no actual description—of sexual assault, multiple descriptive deaths, contemplation of suicide...)

But once the ball starts rolling, the experience of living life and tango with Dante is a joy.

As a new immigrant who has arrived in Buenos Aires to start life with her proxy-husband, Leda is devastated to discover upon arrival that said husband has been killed. Left with the options of returning to her small Italian village or sewing shirts for pennies, Leda seeks a third way to survive: she dons her husband's clothes and takes his name, all so she can play the provenanced violin her father sent with her as a gift to her husband, Dante. And does she play.

This novel is not only about a woman making her way through life in the guise of a man in WWI-era Buenos Aires; it is also about self-discovery, and the steps one takes in order to live their most authentic life (even if that authenticity is based on deception).

Nov 10, 2017

I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would.

plus, it has a happy ending :)

Feb 14, 2016

In order to become a violinist in 1910 Buenos Aires Argentina, Leda must remake herself in a male. Surprisingly she is able to do this for her entire life, eventually marrying Rosa when they are forced to flee to Uruguay. The lesbian passion is sure to raise the ire of some readers, but it makes the book believable. How could a young woman suppress her sexual desires when she has to keep her sexual identity hidden around everyone? For those of us who have visited Buenos Aires and in particular, La Boca, it brings life to what we learned about the tango and its beginnings.

Nov 08, 2015

I so wanted this to be great. I loved the premise, understood where it was going but the writing is inert. A book about music/musicians should sing- the language have a rhythm- perhaps even reflect it's subject and this one doesn't.
I read half way through- it was so much work to do so. Then jumped to the last chapter, and moved backwards until I knew the characters spoken of in that chapter- just to feel like I had the story. Felt/feel bad that i can not recommend this book I want to but can't.

Oct 26, 2015

Absolutely jaw-droppingly spellbinding and beautiful!! I actually found this book walking out of the library and took a chance on it because I had no idea what it was about. I AM SO GLAD I DID!!! Powerful story of community, love, immigrants, life, and the ties that bind!! LOVED it!!!

Oct 11, 2015

This story was different. Love music and tango and couldn't wait to see where it would go. The main characters were great. Nice ending too.


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Oct 23, 2015

"...And isn't that strange, she thought, the way one city can swirl inside another; the way you can be in one country yet carry another country inside your skin; the way a place is changed by whoever comes to it, the way silt invades the body of a river..." -Leda, Chapter Tre "The Good People of New Babel"

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