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The Dancer and the Thief

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  655 ratings  ·  89 reviews
With prisons overflowing in Chile, the president declares a general amnesty for all nonviolent criminals. Ángel Santiago, a youth determined to avenge abuse he received in jail, seeks out the notorious bank robber Nicolás Vergara Grey, whose front-page exploits won him a reputation he would rather leave behind. Their plan for an ambitious and daring robbery is complicated ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.32  · 
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 ·  655 ratings  ·  89 reviews


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Lex Poot
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I noticed that some people are giving it a bad review as they thought it would be a thriller. I am surprised about that. If the book does not meet your expectations that does not mean it is a bad book. This book should be rated based on its literary merit. In this it delivers. Though the story is sometimes tongue in cheek it also gives a bleak picture of Chili after Pinochet was ousted. Due to the global crisis Chilean economy was hit hard. Many people were/are without a job trying to scrape by. ...more
Hannah
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Couldn't get my hands on this one in Spanish, so I read it in *gasp* English. From my amateur point of view, the translation seemed good, but I think I would have enjoyed it more in Spanish. Although the translator handled the small nuances well, those are the sorts of things that I tend to appreciate most in the original language. Also, there's the very good chance that, if I read this in Spanish, I might not have realized how much sex there was in this. ^^' Yeesh. I know three of the character ...more
Nikos79
The dancer and the thief is the kind of novel that almost any reader will like. It's fast paced, it has nice characters especially for anyone who enjoy Latin style, the plot is intriguing and intersting which makes the book an enjoyable reading. In general I liked the book and I read it with pleasure, it's not something special or memorable but not bad at all. Skarmeta is a nice writer and he uses nice sense of humor at times. However if I had to recommend a book by him, this would have been "Th ...more
Rusty
Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Good story! Weaving politics, ballet and a spectacular robbery together, Skarmeta helps one understand Chile in the days it was recovering from political chaos. One begins to adore the young dancer/student, Victoria, and her romantic boyfriend, Angel, who loves her with all his heart. In addition, the sophisticated gentle thief who is adept at cracking safes, Vergara Gray, is so charming. This is a most delightful read!
Suzanne
Aug 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
I have to say this book started out interesting but a few chapters in and it really started to annoy me. I finished it only because it was such an easy read and just to get it off my mind. It wasn't terrible, just not my kind of novel.
Lacey
Jul 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: travel
Read this because we visited Chile. Hated it.
Marvin
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Off beat for American readers. begins sharp, lumpy in the middle, ends smoothly.

Stacia
I liked the characters ok, but the story itself was meandering yet choppy. I wanted to like the book, but mostly forced myself to finish this one because it never really drew me in. Meh.
Ana Ruiz
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Strangely enough, in all my 18 years as an avid reader (or more like 15, to be fair to my analphabet babyhood) I had never read a book as utterly Chilean as this one. You know, one where I recognized the streets, the monuments, the foods, the coloqialities, etcetera. And it was marvelous fun every time I read about a Santiago commonthing to point at the page and go "ohhh, I know that!" and then people on the bus would look at the crazy bookworm who talks to her literary partners.

So, star for tha
...more
Robert Teeter
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
On the same day, legendary thief Nicolas Vergara Gray and small-time crook Angel Santiago* are released from Chilean prisons as part of a general amnesty. Vergara Gray wants to retire from crime and reunite with his wife and son. Angel wants to get Vergara Gray to take part in one last "coup," ** a foolproof heist. He also wants to get revenge on his warden. Angel's warden wants to have him killed before that happens and releases murderer Rigoberto Marin to do the deed. Victoria Ponce wants to g ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Sep 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is not my type of book at all, but I loved it anyway. It's a plot driven suspense novel with a bit of a love story thrown in for good measure. The story is extra good, I think, but then I don't read enough plot driven stuff to be much of an expert on that. Some of you might find it predictable. The ending was not fabulous, but neither did it just wrap things up in a nice ribbon and send you on your way. The writing is marvelous. Works translated from original Spanish have a different rhythm ...more
Ann
Sep 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
I liked the lyrical language and descriptive pieces, especially the short chapter where Angel is riding the horse.
A few too many sex scenes, and although young love is involved, some were tender and passionate, yet some of the other descriptions I felt were crude.
Some others have commented on the ending. The story does end abruptly, as though the author suddenly got sick of trying to tie it all together. When I first finished the book, I felt this way, but on reflecting on the conclusion, I fe
...more
Cordelia
Sep 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
I have mixed feelings about this book. At first I loved it, then half way through I really wasn't not enjoying it. Three quarters of the way I began to like it again, buuut I did not like the ending.
Karen
Jan 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
this book was a hideous trip into the mind of a latin pig
Kelsey
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
There was some great lyrical writing in this book, even with the translation. It was a quick read and interesting enough to keep it moving.
Harriet
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I agree with Marv, it starts off well then becomes tedious. It ends well but I can’t say more.
Beth
Apr 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I think it was how vividly the characters and their emotions and thoughts were described.

Don Nico is released from prison, only to find out that the world has changed. He went to prison for a robbery and kept silent on his partner the whole time, only to find out that his half of the robbery was spent by his partner. His wife, who he hasn't see in five years, refuses to be back with him and he has no money. And Angel wants to him to return to his days as an expert th
...more
Michael
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
enjoyed this novel. It grew on me. The characters are simply drawn and in the context of Chile they tell a story both of the people of Chile and of the nation. The main characters are an experienced (and very talented) thief and a young thief who wants to learn from him and work with him. The young thief falls in love with a young dancer (who doesn’t have much money). He tells a story near the end of the book that made the whole book worthwhile. It reminds me of the way that one has the power t ...more
A.K. Kulshreshth
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book for the characters that Skarmeta has conjured. The would-be dancer and the would-be thief, but also the accomplished maestro-thief, the warden who gave the would-be thief reason to murder him, the murderer whom the warden sneaks out of prison to stalk the would-be thief, the maestro-thief's partner's lover...

Like any good translation of a great work, this one provides an opportunity to enjoy a unique voice, and get great insight into a foreign setting (Santiago, Chile).

I am not
...more
Marianne
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
I heard the Antonio Skarmeta interviewed on NPR and thought this book sounded interesting. It was promoted as an adventure/suspense novel, and maybe I've read too many John Grisham or Dan Brown-like books because I found this novel slow-moving and too character focused to be placed in this category. The ending was a let-down and I couldn't get invested in any of the characters. Kept hoping it would get better but it never did. It is a fast read though, and a huge hit abroad -- I thought it was j ...more
Ashley
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now I want to visit Santiago! "The shopping passages in downtown Santiago are labyrinthine. Tiny caves of businesses, facades that hide something much more sinister. There, the city is a no-man's-land, a constant trafficking of trivialities and mediocrities. Everything is ordinary, everything is sexualized."
Naomi
p283 "As Vergara Gray manipulated screwdrivers, a Swedish wrench, picks, pliers, wires of different sizes and thicknesses, a stethoscope, a chisel, wire cutters, files, bits, and a drill, becoming more jubilant by the minute at having found such a conventional lock, he composed in his mind the text of a postcard he would send to Canteros: The safe is big, but your heart is small."
Andrea
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Andrea by: Antonio Skarmeta
I only bought this book because Skarmeta gave a lecture at UVa, and I wanted him to sign my copy. I loved _El cartero de Neruda_ so I assumed I would enjoy this too, which I did, but WHAT was that ending?! Seriously?!
Ryn
Sep 28, 2008 rated it liked it
THE PROS: Wonderful writing, full of Latin American magical realism. Nuanced insight into the Chilean spirit--distinct from Argentina, Peru, Brazil, etc.
THE CON: The plot line unravels into a resolution that's more typical of a TV drama.
Mia
Dec 05, 2010 added it
Shelves: read-2010
A compelling novel that appears to eloquently express the struggle of modern Chile to deal with its recent past through the symbolism of its characters. Though it isn't hard to figure out what various people represent, it never felt forced or unnatural.
Michelle
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
I rarely read any South American Fiction, but I really enjoyed the story and the historical references regarding the corruption of the Pinochet dictatorship. I am look forward to reading "Il Postino"- the movie was quite good.
Gretchen
May 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Given to me by a colleague, I must admit that I enjoyed the book but not the ending, though I am happy the translation was done so more people can enjoy Skarmeta.
Lorraine Monakey
Jun 01, 2008 rated it liked it
I recommend this book. Wonderful characters and fascinating love story in modern day Chile,wrapped around a carefully planned robbery.
Tara
Sep 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Attention keeping, slightly violent, ending left you hanging. I can see a movie coming
Sarah
Mar 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ny-times-review
Colorful, character driven novel about the uncomfortable recent political past of Chile, centered around a young ballet student and two former prisoners.
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Antonio Skármeta (born Esteban Antonio Skármeta Vranicic) is a Chilean writer, born November 7, 1940 in Antofagasta, Chile. He was born to Croatian immigrants from the Adriatic island of Brač, region of Dalmatia.

His 1985 novel and film[1] Ardiente paciencia ("Ardent Patience") inspired the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie, Il Postino (The Postman). Subsequent editions of the book bore the title El
...more

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