De Robertis’s beautifully written third novel (after Perla and The Invisible Mountain) follows the trajectory of Italian immigrant Leda Mazzoni, who lives as a man in order to support herself in Argentina circa 1913. The story opens as Leda leaves the small Italian village of Alazzano to make a new life in Buenos Aires with her cousin Dante, to whom she is promised in marriage. When she arrives and finds that Dante has been killed, Leda resolves to make her new life work but is disheartened when she realizes that prostitution is the only avenue open to unmarried women without means. So she decides to don her dead husband’s clothes and take his name, finding a job at a cigarette factory and playing tangos on her heirloom violin at night. Leda, posing as Dante, catches the ear of a fairly successful band leader, who recruits her for his group. As the author chronicles Leda’s transformation, the book sometimes switches to the perspective of a minor character, making for a richer but still-cohesive narrative that describes the lives of a working-class Argentineans. The entire novel makes for a poetic read, with De Robertis penning effortlessly lyrical sentences. The novel is true to its time and manages to be engrossing and believable, though it weakens after Leda’s secret is discovered. A clunky third act almost derails an otherwise strong story, but De Robertis’s wonderful prose manages to save it. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/20/2015 Release date: 07/07/2015 Genre: Fiction
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