Thursday, August 7, 2008

oh, the lovely Gypsies...

What a summer! Not only have I read 2 Elvis books, but I've read 2 awesome books dealing with Gypsies, or the Romani or Rom, as they are also called.

So... I've always had a fascination with Gypsies. Maybe it has to do with the air of mystery, the life of adventure, song, dance and vivid colors. Or, maybe I owe it all to a certain boy I dated in high school who was of Romani descent....anyway, whatever it is, I have been and continue to be entranced by these nomadic and interesting people. They've gotten a bad rap throughout history--through equal parts fear of the mysterious and the deep divide on beliefs regarding work, owning things, etc., especially when compared to the Puritan group who settled in the new world. They've been persecuted forever--including by the Nazis.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner is a fabulous book that draws you into the lush and decaying world of France just as the Revolution is bubbling over. In it, a Gypsy boy named Yann who is gifted at throwing his voice and works for a magician becomes an unlikely hero after he meets the shy young heiress named Sido whose father is an utter aristocratic and hard-hearted fool. When the powerful and villainous Count Kalliovski decides to make Sido his pawn only Yann can oppose him. This book absolutely has it all--adventure, war, romance, a red necklace that shows up on the lovely necks of the recently murdered, mysterious characters of questionable descent, wealthy fools and wise paupers. I highly recommend it despite the fact that they put a blonde on the lovely cover when it should have been a brunette ;)

The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth was originally published in Australia as a six-book serious called The Chain of Charms. This book takes place in 17th century England.

Cousins Emilia and Luka travel with their Rom families to town where they hope to earn money for the dowry of another family member. Baba has warned them this will bring trouble--she has "read" it, and indeed, that is exactly what comes to pass. Family members are jailed and set to be hanged by the Puritans who despise Gypsies, but Luke and Emilia escape and go on a quest to save the rest of the family. I love the adventure and the historical aspects of this book--as Booklist puts it:
"Carefully woven into this exciting adventure story is the fascinating and horrifying recounting of the Puritanical religious fervor that cast a net of persecution over anything or anyone secular, including the joyous, rambling Rom. This chilling period in English history is documented in a final chapter, but it is illuminated as only fiction can through the exciting, mud-splattered, often violent adventures of Emilia and Luka."

This one is highly recommended, as well....but if you go looking for it just note that my cover is vastly different from the one pictured here!

Now, check out the cool photo of some actual Rom!
old photo

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