Soon after the marriage Natalia's father dies, and her husband is lost at sea, presumed dead. Penniless and alone, Natalia is persuaded to become a dancer in a tango hall. Diego discovers her there and vows to bring her away from this existence, but their reunion has devastating consequences. Many years later, the spirit of the dance and the lovers' longing for each other draws together two strangers in a haunting meeting, a fusion of time and identities, despair and hope."
In 1920s Buenos Aires a young woman named Natalia has had her whole life decided for her. She lives with her father who, unknown to her, is very ill. He wants Natalia to be cared for after he dies, and so arranges for her to marry a much older man, a sailor, who’ll be able to provide for her and their future children. Natalia accepts her fate, never dreaming of going against her fathers wishes, but feels no love for her new husband. Her true soul mate is Diego, a tango dancer, a man whom she’s adored from the moment she met him. When Natalia’s father dies and her husband is lost at sea, it looks like she might finally be able to be with Diego. Sadly the lovers’ fate is destined to be tragic, but the strength of their love is such that their souls continue to search for each other, desperate for a way to be together for many years after their deaths.
Elia Barcelo is a Spanish authoress renowned for her science fiction writing; this novella marks a big change in her writing style and is translated from its original Spanish by David Frye. The language used is very beautiful and evocative, the writing flows gracefully, and the descriptions of the tango are as powerful and passionate as the dance itself, brilliantly encapsulating the drama felt by the two lovers.
This historical tale kept me absolutely mesmerised. I loved Natalia and her inner conflicts. She’d been brought up to behave in a very traditional way: to do what her father says, get married, have babies, and be respectable, but in her heart she knows that she wants more than this – she needs passion, excitement, dance and travel. A very clever aspect of the story is that Natalia’s father really believes that he’s doing the best for her, he loves his daughter dearly and would never want her to be miserable. Similarly, Natalia’s new husband is very fond of her and believes that they’ll have a contented life together – he also has no idea how unhappy Natalia is.
I was amazed by how much characterisation and feeling Barcelo was able to put into a relatively short story. She captured the essence of Buenos Aires perfectly, describing everything from plants to buildings and food. I was left me in no doubt that Natalia and Diego really were meant to be together and was enthralled by this original and dramatic love story, the romance of which stayed with me long after I’d finished reading it.