Review by Michael Smith
GYPSIES STOP tHERE by Miriam Wakerly
Price: £7.99 (+ P&P)
Published in 2008
The book is available in the United Kingdom from Waterstone’s or from www.strongmanpublishing.com
This novel, set in Surrey/Hampshire 2007, is written from the viewpoint of a non-Gypsy woman who has her own intriguing tale to tell. It also brings us up to date with where Travellers are in the 21st century. This makes it topical, showing a balanced understanding of the problems they still face. Romany Gypsies, who have been with us for over 500 years, are an ethnic group that even today suffer open racist abuse and discrimination.
Will uprooting herself from London to live in the country help Kay escape guilt-ridden memories of her husband's death? Far from finding a quiet life, she is caught up in the age-old village conflict where passionate opinions on Romany Gypsy Travellers divide the local people.
A young Gypsy woman, Lena, and her two small sons, enter her life, unwittingly putting Kay's plans on hold. Kay struggles not only to come to terms with her emotional past but also to resolve Lena's problems, those of the village and the Gypsies. And another relationship blossoms that she would never have dreamed of ...
To find out whether or not and what and the rest you will have to read the book yourself. I am not going to give away anymore of the plot. Sorry folks, but you have to get the book and read it yourself.
GYPSIES STOP tHERE is a brilliant story that brings to life the issues that Gypsies face on a daily basis in this country, at each and every place that they stop or try to stop; all the prejudices and all the rest of discrimination without most of the non-Gypsies having ever known any Gypsy personally.
While I cannot, and neither does the author via this book, so no fear there, condone the recent acts of buying land by Gypsies and other Travellers, then moving onto that land and presenting the local councils with a fait acompli, with the attitude “we are here and here to stay”, in each and every case nearly, and then seeking retrospective planning consent, I do also make the call for Gypsies to be given adequate sites and also and especially the possibility to set up their own on their own land. In other words; a little bit more leeway in planning law to make it possible for Gypsies to set up and run their own sites. But, oh dear, I again digressed.
This book I think, will be a good vehicle to further some understanding amongst the non-Gypsy population, if they will but read it, as to the need of Gypsies for sites, whether local authority ones or their own, and aid, I hope, in lessening the NIMBY-ism concerned with Gypsies coming into an area to live. Only a small minority, as in other communities, do live by scamming and by fraud and theft, and I am always prepared and willing to admit that we have our rogues and our villains. But there are many more good Gypsies than there are the bad ones; as with all people.
GYPSIES STOP tHERE is definitely a great read that provides an entertaining way for people to understand more about Gypsies (and Travellers) in Britain and their life and their life's problems.
The story is one of a very few that I have read from this perspective that puts Gypsies in a real light. It neither vilifies nor romanticizes them.
I could not put this book down and only did so with great reluctance. The story is fast moving and you want to keep turning the pages to find out how is goes on. This is a real page-turner for sure. When I finally finished it was left feeling bereft. I hope a sequel of this story is in work and coming out soon. I cannot wait to find out how it continues.
GYPSIES STOP tHERE is a book that definitely should be read by all, adults and young people alike. Especially, however, those that are prejudiced towards the Gypsy People should take some time to read this book.
The author has created a story and characters that are believable and has presented the Romany-Gypsy community in a positive light without making them appear too perfect or too romantic.
Some of the words of the Romani used by the characters, especially by Lena, are Traveller slang and not Romani Chib. “Scan” for food, for instance is NOT Romani; it is Traveller slang. The Romani word used by the Romanichals in Britain (and elsewhere) is “hoben”. This is directly related to the Romanes word for food, that is to say “chabe” with the “ch” being pronounced like the “ch” in “loch”. I do know, however, that “scran” is also used by the Romanichal communities. The Romanichals are the Romany-Gypsy in Britain, by way of explanation to those that do not know this. And while they are Romany (Romani) they are not Roma. Oh, but I digressed again.
The sprinkling of Romany words within the book, even the Traveller slang, for those words also find themselves being used by the Romany at times, makes this story so good, aside from the brilliant story line and the writing style.
I think this is one of the fist novels of this kind that addresses this subject in the way that it does. Let's hope for lots of people reading it and taking the message to heart.
Miriam Wakerly has a BA Degree in Combined Studies – English, French, Sociology and Politics, from Leicester University. She has combined bringing up a family of a son and two daughters with writing and working. She lives with her husband in Surrey and is a member of the Society of Authors.
Copies of GYPSIES STOP tHERE should be in every public library, in every school and if you know someone who is anti-Gypsy for this or that reason maybe give him or her a copy for Christmas or just as a gift generally. The price of this book could make a lifetime of a difference as far as attitudes are concerned and from one reader the effects could snowball. I am certain this book has that potential.
I can definitely give this book full marks.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008