Title: The Gods of Tango
Author: Carolina De Robertis
Publish Date: July 7, 2015
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "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."
My Two Cents:
"The Gods of Tango" is the story of Italian immigrant Leda who comes to Argentina in the early 1900s. She is married to her cousin and when he suddenly dies, she is left alone in a city where she knows no one. She will have to carve out a life for herself in this brand new place. She is swept up in the tango music of the city, which isn't really open to women at the time. So she decides to live her life as a man, never telling anyone her secret, which could ruin her career. This is a sweeping novel that looks at what it means to carve out a true life for yourself.
Leda is a fascinating character. She goes through so much trouble to disguise herself as a man and does it so well that she is able to not only live as a man but to love as a man as well. This gets her into trouble later on in the book but it was fascinating to see how long she was able to carry out the ruse for. She struggles with who she is. Society is not particularly open to women at the time and certainly not open to lesbians. You are pulling for her the whole time as you just want her to be able to live her life in the way that she wants to live it. I really liked that the author shed light on a time when people had to be completely closed off about who they loved if it didn't fit the embraced narrative of the day: one man, one woman, forever and always.
The book takes place mostly in Argentina with a bit in Italy at the beginning and Uruguay at the end. I love reading books set in South America and it doesn't seem like I get there often enough in my reading travels. This book gives a lot of good detail about what was going on in Buenos Aires at the time and how the city was changing. I really enjoyed all of the detail and this book made me crave reading more historical fiction set in South America.
Overall, this book was off the beaten path, which I really enjoyed. It's a good read with good detail and memorable characters.