Review of small press and independent books.
You are not logged in.
'Gypsies Stop tHere'
- is an odd title. I imagine it often gets a double take from browsers in bookshops. It's designed to highlight the NIMBYism we are all so good at slipping into: An issue we read about in the papers, that's happening in someone else's town, is treated very differently to one that's happening right HERE, where WE live.
We all know that life has changed for the Gypsy population of the UK. We all know they don't have a good reputation in many quarters. Most of us have a mix of ideas in our heads, from the romance of fortune telling and horse fairs to the annoyances of residency rights and unruly youngsters turning up at the local school. Some of us may be aware that the Roma in the UK are related to that other lot we hear about having a hard time in Eastern Europe but what has that got to do with the UK? And why are all these Romanian people turning up and getting into difficulties, especially in Ireland? When these issues are put into a personal story, they suddenly get a whole lot more complicated and endlessly intriguing. Author Miriam Wakerly knows the various sides of this situation very well, and has brought them vividly to life in the fictional setting of Appleby Green...
Running away from a mysterious trauma, a death she appears to blame herself for, Kay arrives, partly disabled and seeking a quiet retirement, in Appleby Green. But village life is not what she expected. Gossip and disputes were no surprise but the complexity of the issues facing Appleby proved to be a maelstrom of what we think of as urban problems - single mums, family break-ups, transient population, asylum seekers, race relations - from the dispute over whether the Gypsies should be allowed a transit site near the village, to the problem of the threatened Post Office closure. Not just a problem to local pensioners this - who will pay for the keep and medical care of the postmistress's mother back in India if the Patels lose their business? What can the state of health provision in India possibly have to do with rural English people?
Kay, who before her retirement was a PR professional, someone who expects to get things done, is astonished that the local population are drawing conclusions and taking action based largely on assumptions and uninformed prejudices. She finds herself drawn into investigating and tackling many of these issues, long before she has time to settle in to the imagined peace of village life.
...and just like in all those old, old stories, it begins to appear that she's being wooed by a local landowner - a kind, civilised, wealthy man; it's gratifying and comforting - but her head keeps turning in the direction of a mysterious man, possibly a Traveller, who she has taken on as a gardener. Does he return her regard? Even if he did, could his feelings for her possibly over-ride the famous Gypsy sense of family bonds? How will it all turn out?
Cliche it may be to say it, but 'Gypsies Stop tHere' is a real page-turner - and for anyone who really gets the bug, there's even a glossary of Romany language and publications at the back of the book.
Gypsies Stop tHere - A Novel
by Miriam Wakerly