FICTION

Cantoras

Knopf. Sept. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9780525521693. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525521709. F
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In 1977 Uruguay, where the military flattens all dissent, five women risk everything to buy a rudimentary house on remote Cabo Polonio, a sanctuary from their difficult lives in Montevideo. They are bright, brisk ringleader Flaca, who runs her parents’ butcher shop; the ineffably beautiful La Venus, married but initially paired with Flaca; Romina, once in love with Flaca and now keeping her head down and her mind on her studies with her brother in prison; Malena, locked up tightly in a mysterious past but ultimately the most daring of the group; and teenage Paz, ready to learn about life and love and with heady experience all her own. All cantoras, a word meaning both female singers and lesbians, these women engage with one another as peers, as old relationships break up and new ones form, all the while clarifying the horror of living under a regime that has not just deformed but essentially stolen their lives. The result is luscious and penetrating writing that founders only in the last pages, when a tragedy involving one of the women is rushed, simply not giving her her due.
VERDICT Multi-award-winning Uruguayan American author de Robertis (The Gods of Tango) offers a story both personal and political, presenting the lives of five beautifully crafted individuals while making the torments of a repressive regime very real. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]

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