Havana, 1957. On the same day that the Mafia capo Umberto Anastasia is assassinated in a barber's chair in New York, a hippopotamus escapes from the Havana zoo and is shot and killed by its pursuers. Assigned to cover the zoo story, Joaquín Porrata, a young Cuban journalist, instead finds himself embroiled in the mysterious connections between the hippo's death and the mobster's when a secretive zookeeper whispers to him that he "knows too much." In exchange for a promise to introduce the keeper to his idol, the film star George Raft, now the host of the Capri Casino, Joaquín gets information that ensnares him in an ever-thickening plot of murder, mobsters, and, finally, love.
The love story is, of course, another mystery. Told by Yolanda, a beautiful ex-circus performer now working for the famed cabaret San Souci, it interleaves through Joaquín's underworld investigations, eventually revealing a family secret deeper even than Havana's brilliantly evoked enigmas.
In Dancing to "Almendra," Mayra Montero has created an ardent and thrilling tale of innocence lost, of Havana's secret world that is "the basis for the clamor of the city," and of the end of a violent era of fantastic characters and extravagant crimes. Based on the true history of a bewitching city and its denizens, Almendra is the latest "triumph" (Library Journal) from one of Latin America's most impassioned and intoxicating voices.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
Mayra Montero is the author of a collection of short stories and of eight novels, including, most recently, Captain of the Sleepers (FSG, 2005). She was born in Cuba and lives in Puerto Rico, where she writes a weekly column in El Nuevo Dia newspaper.
Mayra Montero is the author of a collection of short stories and of eight novels, including The Messenger, The Last Night I Spent with You, and Captain of the Sleepers. She was born in Cuba and lives in Puerto Rico, where she writes a weekly column in El Nuevo Dia newspaper.
Edith Grossman has translated the poetry and prose of major Spanish-language authors, including Gabriel García Marquez, Alvaro Mutis, and Mayra Montero, as well as Mario Vargas Llosa.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read the descriptions and thought I would really like the book. There certainly were some very colorful characters and the atmosphere of pre-Fidel Castro era was evident. However, the plot left a lot to be desired. I was not impressed with the writing or the story.
We're suckers for novels that are set in Cuba during the 'golden years.' Havana in the 1950s was an exciting time and in her new book, 'Dancing to Almendra,' Mayra Montero plunges us into Havana during the final weeks of Batista. The story begins with two deaths: the murder of mafia chieftain Umberto Anastasia and a hippopotamus at the Havana Zoo. A young entertainment reporter, Joaquín Porrata, gets assigned to the big story --the killing of the hippo.Porrata, who is definitely looking to move up in the journalism world, is a little under whelmed by his assignment -- until a zoo employee tells him about a strange link between the two killings. The paper he works for refuses to publish his story, and Porrata soon finds himself working for a rival newspaper. What follows is a journey of discovery, from Havana to upstate New York and back again. Along the way, Porrata befriends a zoo keeper with a strange obsession for George Raft, Yolanda, a one-armed circus performer and several shady mafia characters. What is unique about this book is the counter story: Yolanda tells her own story in frequent interludes. On one side -- the present -- we have the plot driven and action packed narrative of Porrata. On the other, we have the slow meandering stream of Yolanda's life story, mostly remembrances of her past. Reading this book involves shifting from plainly written prose to stream-of-conscious poetry, but Montero manages to pull it off with aplomb. The original Spanish text has been lovingly translated by Edith Grossman. If you speak and read Spanish, you might want to tackle the original. However, for English readers this novel is an engaging read. Yes, you won't want to put it down.