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.