Heart of Tango by Elia Barceló

Heart of Tango is a novel that gives so much in its title.. ‘Heart’ because so much is about love and romance, and ‘Tango’ because the tango plays predominant role in the book by what it means to the characters. You may think that because it is in the title that the book is overloaded with dancing anecdotes and never ending descriptions of a leotard or the intricate steps laid out like a poetic manual. But it isn’t, dancing holds a place of just one piece of a delicious pie. It explores and deals with a lot more and the nature of place, time, protocol of different periods, love, longing, the secret desire to be lost in dance and a wide variety of emotions.

The novel is done from the first person perspective with each chapter focusing on one character point of view told to you by then. At first it takes a couple of chapters to take to this style of retelling in a way that helps you learn what is going on and how to appreciate, but once you do it is enjoyable. The device of doing a completely first person perspective for all the characters gives new insight and an appreciation of their emotions and personal outlook more than if it were narrated through the voice of a third party. It crosses over well and has been done to entice you into the story more, rather than the exercising of such a writing style to spoon feed information to the reader that you couldn’t convey through an external narrator. This style compliments the book, particularly as it is a book filled with longing and people waiting and wishing for a time to be together, so the splitting the chapters to the personal retelling by the character helps differentiate the way each are set apart in the narrative and are lonely awaiting connection and the bond with another. It acts as a poetic device to compliment the content of the story.

The Latin American setting can be overdone in these type of novels and the author can be too preoccupied with telling the world outside what Latin America is like, rather than enough to bring the novel to life and compliment and enhance the story. Heart of Tango succeeds in avoiding this sometimes blurred line between a work of fiction and a travel book. Being set in Buenos Aires you get enough to understand the lay of the land, the people, the protocol, the layout of key places within the story, but not an overload of geographic description. Here it was subtle, intriguing, well described and a compliment to getting a sense of the Latin world and a picture of Argentina, all in the confines of a fast paced narrative.

There’s a symmetry and magic in the way the characters overlap, often through dancing the tango, this off set of connectivity between the characters helps to compliment the fact that the tango brings to each something they are missing and gives them an escape or a channel for these emotions. All brought together in a well thought out and yet seamless way in this book.

The ending doesn’t disappoint either and the imagination and subtlety brings out both a mystery and mind set of the time a lot of the novel was set in, and the region too. It is both poetic and combines with the first person perspective in a very complimentary way to bring out something that enhances the meaning and emotion in the book by how it is constructed and conveyed.

Heart of Tango is a thoroughly enjoyable read with a well thought out narrative, intriguing characters, a look upon strange and differing worlds all brought together through the desire to tango. Whether you are into dancing or not this book will not disappoint. Written in a poetic and intriguing style that echoes a feeling of a Latin world in need of a hug and giving one to you through the enjoyment of the pages.


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