Freedom—its presence and absence, the longing for it—colors every page of Carolina De Robertis’ masterful, passionate and at times painful new novel ... The novel covers some 35 years, frequently changing focus from one character to another and yet at all times retaining a powerful sense of intimacy. Each of De Robertis’ central characters is of incredible emotional depth. Cantoras is at its most powerful when dissecting consequences of desire ... The bond the five women form—the way they orbit, attract and repel, take solace and find strength in one another—is the most moving part of Cantoras. By the end of the novel, there is a sense that the reader has done more than simply peer in on the lives of strangers, that instead they have experienced something organic and deeply human—a dangerous, powerful kind of freedom.
The amount of story in this novel is remarkable, to say nothing of its depth. The text uses many tools to pack so much into three hundred pages ... Also, the narrative cuts between past, present, and future seamlessly, and it alternates between summary and scene strategically ... De Robertis does wonders with point of view ... This layering warms up the narrative. The repetition—or is it recursion?—makes us feel that we earned the story. The effect is intimacy and satisfaction ... De Robertis rends time to honor pain. She heals.
Cantoras, Carolina De Robertis’s brazenly hopeful fourth novel, is an ode to [the] will to survive and rebuild ... The great success of this novel is that it shows how tyranny, even if you can hide from it by living a quiet life, is a thief of joy and love — and not just love that’s been deemed subversive, like that of the cantoras ... De Robertis’s prose is most moving when it’s direct and unembellished, but her metaphors can be heavy-handed, as in the overuse of water imagery — emotions, words, hearts, bodies always seem to be drowning, spilling, pouring. Sex is decisively three-note: lovers aching, melting or opening ... By refusing to let a thing be only itself, De Robertis robs simple objects and gestures of their innate beauty and power ... And yet, De Robertis captures these remarkable women not as outsiders but as complex, flawed human beings ... Cantoras is bold and unapologetic, a challenge to the notion of 'normalcy' and a tribute to the power of love, friendship and political resistance. It’s a revolutionary fable, ideal for this moment, offered with wisdom and care.
... sweeping and utterly breathtaking ... Aside from the consistently engrossing narrative that effortlessly interweaves the story of each woman’s personal successes and setbacks with Uruguay’s complicated struggle to come into its own as a democratic republic, De Robertis’ writing is reason alone to read this book. Like her fierce characters, her words pry and pull at the essence of not only what it feels like to be thwarted, condemned or quarantined because of your beliefs and identity, but also what it means to be a vulnerable yet empowered, infinitely beautiful and fully alive woman. Often, these sentences hit their target so directly and eloquently that they practically sing ...
... a gem of a novel, shining in every creative facet. The skill with which author De Robertis weaves the story, not only of the five protagonists amid the bleak and joyless repression the Uruguayan authoritarian regime in the 1970s, but also how she counterbalances that repression with the group’s varied efforts of political resistance and the mystical power of their escape hatch, a shack on an isolated beach near Montevideo, is memorable. If this book were an opera, De Robertis would be deafened by curtain call after curtain call. It is, to say the least, a most memorable page turner that carries a siren call of hope ... The sweep of Cantoras is vast, spanning decades with chilling insight into the regime’s worst human rights abuses and the psychological numbing of the protagonists’ ability to live their ordinary lives in the city within that cruelty ... De Robertis’ prose is breathtaking, you gasp for more and more she gives you. Her characters are fiery, devoted, flawed (like us all) sometimes with pettiness and ill-temper, but utterly convincing and fully alive. By the end of this magnificent book, we know them so well, we carry them with us wherever we go ... If this book were an opera, De Robertis would be deafened by curtain call after curtain call after every performance. It is, to say the least, a most memorable page turner that carries a siren call of hope.
Native Uruguayan Carolina De Robertis delves straight into her country’s tortured past with Cantoras ... In addition to the wildly complicated strings of events that pass with the decades, De Robertis takes care to address concepts of gender fluidity inherently present in queer individuals. The women already exist outside the bounds of what a woman should be; therefore, it is easier for them to wiggle back and forth between gender roles ... De Robertis’s careful description gender roles and queer women is one my favorite aspects of the book. She puts into words things I’d only felt, that tricky area of non-straight womanhood where the needle on the compass of society’s categories can never quite sit still ... Still, Cantoras only briefly dips its toes into the concept of bisexuality ... making it feel a bit less real and vital to queer history.
And, though masterful in its detail, some instances of De Robertis’s prose go a bit too far in depth ... Descriptions follow characters like near- epithets ... Cantoras remains a fascinating, emotional read— just as important for those who know Uruguay’s history as it is for those who know nothing about Uruguay at all.
...[a] luminous new novel ... De Robertis tells their stories with heart and compassion as the women move back and forth between the city of Montevideo and the hamlet of Cabo Polonio ... A literary ode to difference.
... 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 ... 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.
Rich and luscious, De Robertis’ writing feels like a living thing, lapping over the reader like the ocean. Carefully crafted and expertly observed, each sentence is an elegant gift ... At one point, the unhappily married La Venus wonders: 'Why did life put so much inside a woman and then keep her confined to smallness?' De Robertis’ novel allows these women to break those confines and find greatness in themselves and each other. A stunning novel about queer love, womanhood, and personal and political revolution.