Thank you book friends for influencing me to read Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis. This book is one of those underrated masterpieces that deserves all the praise and love. Thank you @allegedlymari and @bookaddictpnw for getting Cantoras on my radar! If you are not following Mari and Laurie, I highly suggest you check out their pages. Mari is a law school student who is passionate about social injustice and speaks her truth, which I love about her. Laurie is sweet, caring, and nurturing. I often call her "Mama Laurie" as I appreciate when she shares her wisdom with me. Both are fabulous readers and have a plethora of book recommendations.
Cantoras is a lyrical character driven novel set in 1970's-80's Uruguay and follows a group of misfit, renegade, resistor women who become friends, lovers, and family. The women are cantoras, the nickname for queer women-women who "sing." Flaca, La Venus, Romina, Malena, and Paz are each unique in their own ways, but crave the same thing; to live authentically and just "be." Their stories take place over several decades and between two cities, Montevideo where they all reside and Cabo Polonio, their seaside escape. A story of tenacity, fighting for what you love and the testament of friendship.
In true feminist dismantle the patriarchy form, Cantoras delivers. Each character found a way into my heart and I found a connection with them in different ways. (Personally, I think I am a mix of Flaca and Romina, with a dash of Malena.) Flaca brings this mismatched group of women together on a trip to Cabo Polonio, a quaint and humble seaside town. They find a place where they can hide from the oppressive government of Uruguay and truly be themselves. Their relationships amongst each other ebb and flow like the waves of the ocean. I loved following their lives through the fall of the dictatorship of Uruguay and the different paths in life they each took, yet they still came back to each other. De Robertis writing is lyrical and moving, weaving in storylines of new friendships and lovers, but always coming back to the same core crew.
Cantoras is a character driven novel with aspects of literary fiction. Cabo Polonio does not boast much for a town of it's size, but it has a large lighthouse that is always present in the women's lives. To me, the lighthouse symbolized the oppressive government they were living under and their desire to flee the city in order to breath. Being a cantoras was essentially a death sentence. The women had to hide every ounce of their being while in public, otherwise risking imprisonment. The only place they could truly be themselves was Cabo Polonio.
"Why did life put so much inside a woman and then keep her confined to smallness?"
Read if you like character driven novels with strong female protagonists, such as:
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert