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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

This title in other editions

Dancing to "Almendra"

by

Dancing to "Almendra" Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Havana, 1957. On the same day that the Mafia capo Umberto Anastasia is assassinated in a barbers 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 hippos death and the mobsters 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 Joaquíns underworld investigations, eventually revealing a family secret deeper even than Havanas brilliantly evoked enigmas.
 
In Dancing to "Almendra," Mayra Montero has created an ardent and thrilling tale of innocence lost, of Havanas 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 Americas most impassioned and intoxicating voices.
Mayra Montero is the author of a collection of short stories and of several 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 Día newspaper.  

 

Edith Grossman, the winner of the 2006 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, is the translator of many works by major Spanish-language authors, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Miguel de Cervantes, as well as Mayra Montero. She lives in New York City.

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
 
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 zoo and is shot and killed by its pursuers. Assigned to cover the zoo story, Joaquín Porrata, a young Cuban journalist, finds himself embroiled in the mysterious connections between the hippo's death and the mobster's when a secretive zookeeper whispers 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 another mystery. Told by Yolanda, a beautiful ex-circus performer now working for Havana's famed Sans Souci cabaret, it is interwoven with 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 if innocence lost, of Havana's secret world that was "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) of one of Latin America's most impassioned and intoxicating voices.

"Dancing to 'Almendra,' [Mayra Montero's] ninth novel, [is] lovingly translated by Edith Grossman: a flawless little book with a deceptively light touch . . . I devoured [the book] with absolute delight, and I'm looking forward to reading it again, and to reading anything Montero might come up with next. It's tempting to think in categories—it's tempting to me, anyway: so sue me—but a good novel denies them, nimbly and without visible effort. This novel is great fun to read, and a paradoxical thing to contemplate. When I was done, I wasn't sure if it was an especially well-written genre story, or a literary book based upon an especially raffish plot. Perhaps there's no difference between the two, after all."—Jim Lewis, The New York Times Book Review
"Dancing to 'Almendra,' [Mayra Montero's] ninth novel, [is] lovingly translated by Edith Grossman: a flawless little book with a deceptively light touch . . . Montero has been a newspaper reporter herself, and she brings to the story a reporter's emphasis on narrative momentum and easy detail, while leaving behind a reporter's reliance on boilerplate and cliché. Her writing is swift and agile; it dances like a tough kid in a good suit—well pressed but never boring, and never calling attention to the strength that lies behind it. Not a single sentence in the book stands out as being special or quotable, but none seem flat, either; they roll past you without ever knocking you over, and if you think that's an easy feat to pull off, I'd ask you to reconsider. It isn't often done . . . I devoured [the book] with absolute delight, and I'm looking forward to reading it again, and to reading anything Montero might come up with next. It's tempting to think in categories—it's tempting to me, anyway: so sue me—but a good novel denies them, nimbly and without visible effort. This novel is great fun to read, and a paradoxical thing to contemplate. When I was done, I wasn't sure if it was an especially well-written genre story, or a literary book based upon an especially raffish plot. Perhaps there's no difference between the two, after all."—Jim Lewis, The New York Times Book Review

“Novelist Mayra Montero, who attests to the influence of Alejo Carpentier, burst onto the literary scene in the 1990s, espousing a new Caribbean ethos. Her diverse plots jump from island to island, revealing the complexity of AfroCaribbean and transcultural practices, and Western influence in decay. Dancing to “Almendra” is a pulsating rendition of life during the final years of the Batista era, in an ambience of casino life, movie stars, and organized prostitution.”—Elizabeth Coonrod Martínez, Américas

"Mayhem, mobsters and romance play out in a vivid evocation of Havana's fantastic secret world: its infamous criminal underbelly, long departed with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution."—The Dallas Morning News

 
"Organized crime and disorganized personal relations are tightly intertwined in the prolific Cuban-born Puerto Rican author's latest. It begins most auspiciously, with a killer first sentence that links the death of a New York mobster with the ill-fated escape of a hippopotamus from the Havana zoo . . . Montero presents a lively bevy of mutually involved characters, notably 22-year-old newspaper reporter Joaquín Porrata, who has retreated from his family's numerous dysfunctions (philandering dad, unstable mom, sexually befuddled younger sister) to work for a local daily, where he's 'allowed to interview only comedians and whores.' Acting on a tip from an old pal, who works at the zoo, Joaquín connects dots that suggest crime boss Umberto Anastasia was whacked before he could receive a 'message'—presumably sent by Havana-based crime lord Meyer Lansky and his boys, to discourage any rival gangs from muscling in on their casinos (it's the late-1950s, when crime still paid quite well). A parallel story, narrated by a one-armed circus performer (Yolanda, for whom Joaquín falls hard), unearths many more secrets, endangering Joaquín and his loved ones . . . Montero has done her homework, and the novel is filled with bizarre characters (a gay choreographer afflicted with leprosy is by no means the most outre), rapid-fire action and enough blood and guts to satisfy a cage of hungry lions.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
"[Mayra Montero] probes beneath the surface to expose the tangled emotions and complex allegiances within a society on the eve of destruction."—Bill Ott, Booklist
 
"Highly recommended . . . [A] vivid portrait of the last days of violent, corrupt, pre-revolutionary Cuba. The Cuban-born Montero . . . has written a book that serves as both social commentary and a well-constructed mystery."—Mary Margaret Benson, Library Journal
 
"[C]ompelling . . . Montero blends fact and fiction with narrative aplomb: as in Graham Greene, the drama of a nation disintegrating in crisis is made very personal."—Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Montero's compelling latest (following Captain of the Sleepers) is set in Mafia-dominated Cuba in 1957, before Castro took power but during his military campaign from the hillsides. It tells the story of young journalist Joaqun Porrata, who's investigating the murder of mob boss Umberto 'Albert' Anastasia, who really was murdered in 1957. Joaquin is warned at every turn to stay away from the story, but he persists, traveling to New York and back, drawing a beating for his trouble. His hard-bitten voice alternates in the narrative with that of Yolanda, his one-armed mulatta lover, who provides a more magical realist take on the surreal Havana of the '50s. Period figures like Meyer Lansky and George Raft play pivotal roles in nicely imagined sequences about a city where charm and corruption were indivisible. But it's in the death of Joaqun's brother, Santiago, tortured and murdered by the dictator's enforcers, that the reality of the coming revolution is brought home, making it clear that much more than a gaudy city of casinos and nightclubs is at stake. Montero blends fact and fiction with narrative aplomb: as in Graham Greene, the drama of a nation disintegrating in crisis is made very personal." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"An escaped hippopotamus has been killed at the Havana zoo, but cub reporter Joaqumn Porrata would much rather be writing about the death in New York that same day of Mafia executioner Umberto Anastasia. Then a zoo worker reveals a connection. It's 1957, and we are instantly hooked into this gripping novel about the beautiful, steaming, rotten hulk of pre-Castro Cuba, where very little is the way it... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

 

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 zoo and is shot and killed by its pursuers.  Assigned to cover the zoo story, Joaquin Porrata, a young Cuban journalist, finds himself embroiled in the mysterious connections between the hippo's death and the mafioso's in this intoxicating story of murder, mobsters, and, finally, love. 

Synopsis:

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.

About the Author

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.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374102777
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Montero, Mayra
Translator:
Grossman, Edith
Author:
Grossman, Edith
Publisher:
Picador
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Journalists
Subject:
Cuba
Subject:
Mafia
Subject:
Mafia - Cuba - Havana
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20071226
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 Illustration
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.50 in

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Dancing to "Almendra" Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374102777 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Montero's compelling latest (following Captain of the Sleepers) is set in Mafia-dominated Cuba in 1957, before Castro took power but during his military campaign from the hillsides. It tells the story of young journalist Joaqun Porrata, who's investigating the murder of mob boss Umberto 'Albert' Anastasia, who really was murdered in 1957. Joaquin is warned at every turn to stay away from the story, but he persists, traveling to New York and back, drawing a beating for his trouble. His hard-bitten voice alternates in the narrative with that of Yolanda, his one-armed mulatta lover, who provides a more magical realist take on the surreal Havana of the '50s. Period figures like Meyer Lansky and George Raft play pivotal roles in nicely imagined sequences about a city where charm and corruption were indivisible. But it's in the death of Joaqun's brother, Santiago, tortured and murdered by the dictator's enforcers, that the reality of the coming revolution is brought home, making it clear that much more than a gaudy city of casinos and nightclubs is at stake. Montero blends fact and fiction with narrative aplomb: as in Graham Greene, the drama of a nation disintegrating in crisis is made very personal." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by ,

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

 

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 zoo and is shot and killed by its pursuers.  Assigned to cover the zoo story, Joaquin Porrata, a young Cuban journalist, finds himself embroiled in the mysterious connections between the hippo's death and the mafioso's in this intoxicating story of murder, mobsters, and, finally, love. 

"Synopsis" by ,
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.
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