Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Barefoot Queen: A Novel

The Barefoot Queen: A Novel
Ildefonso Falcones

Published 2014

First Sentence
"Port of Cádiz, January 7, 1748

Just as she was about to set foot on the dock at Cádiz, Caridad hesitated."

Publisher's Description:

A historical epic full of bravery and romance that follows two women as they make a life for themselves in 18th-century Spain.

It's January of 1748. Caridad is a recently freed Cuban slave wondering the streets of Seville. Her master is dead and she has nowhere to go. When her path crosses with Milagros Carmona's-a young, rebellious gypsy-the two women are instantly inseparable. Milagros introduces Caridad to the gypsy community, an exotic fringe society that will soon change her life forever. Over time they each fall in love with men who are fiercely loyal and ready to fight to the death for their rights as a free people. When all gypsies are declared outlaws by royal mandate, life in their community becomes perilous. They soon find themselves in Madrid-a city of passion and dancing, but also a treacherous one full of smugglers and thieves. Caridad and Milagros must help in the gypsy's struggle against society and its laws in order to stay together; it's a dangerous battle that cannot, and will not, be easily won. From the tumultuous bustle of Seville to the theatres of Madrid, The Barefoot Queen is a historical fresco filled with charaters that live, love, suffer, and fight for what they believe.

Dear Reader,

This was so epic, and I love epic. It reminded me of how I felt after reading Les Miserables, completely fulfilled and wanting MORE (even though both books are pretty large). Unfortunately this book took me a little longer than I had hoped and I didn't get to post this review closer to the publication date, but what has me most upset is that Netgalley has archived it so quickly and I can't get to all my kindle notes. I get frustrated when it comes to the note taking capability of these devices out there now, PLEASE someone... perfect this!? WHY can't there be a way to read the notes you took during reading on your kindle and read them on the desktop (where I always write my reviews) instead of going back and forth from the device?! Anyways, I don't want to get sidetracked here.

I loved this book. Every character was brought to life with deep thought and imagination. We got to bounce from one to the other and I didn't mind at all. I'm sure you've experienced those books where you like one narrative over the other, you skim through to get to the "good" parts. I felt this book and the characters were so well balanced that you wanted to play along with everyone. If that isn't a compliment, I don't know what is. The Barefoot Queen follows a gypsy family and the freed slave that happens to stumble into their life. The Grandfather, Melchor, is a wise, proud, strong, revered but very stubborn man who spent his younger years in jail. His daughter, (Ana, mother of Milagros) is the wife of a lout but gathers her own strength and charm as the story grows, you learn how very important she really is. Milagros, the precious girl in the eyes of her Grandfather Melchor, born as a Vega with a fun loving spirit that slowly gets crushed along this thing we call life. Finally, one of my favorite characters, Caridad, the freed slave with no sense of self, grows within the gypsy tribe and her personality slowly starts to shine. These are but a few from the large cast of incredible characters we meet along the way, although I would surmise them to be the most important.

I haven't read too many books on gypsy life and history and I'm kind of glad this was an introduction for me. Yes, I know that this is "historical fiction" but the Author knows his stuff and brought many of the characters to life based on tales from the past. The gypsy struggle reminded me quite a bit of the struggle during the Holocaust and what the Jews had to endure. All gypsies were gathered up and either thrown into workhouses or jails (children, mothers and elderly, essentially ALL of them). The conditions were horrendous and those who didn't comply were executed. This is the story of our world, over and over and over again. They say we can learn the most about ourselves by searching into our pasts. How scary is that? The more I learn of the bigotry from our past, makes me scared for what comes next, the event that'll send people to their graves for what they believe in.

Okay, I'd like to end on a brighter note though. The romantical way of gypsy life is hidden within this book, some of the communal ways they do things made me so giddy. I really want to jump through time and space to be amongst the gypsies. Now... when someone asks me if I had a time machine, where would I go? Back to 1748 to meet Caridad off the ship that sailed her straight into the arms of the most celebrated, romantic and honorable people around. I want to dance with them, sing and clap, smoke cigars with them, pretend objects mean NOTHING and nobody owns ANYTHING. Live free. Doesn't that sounds romantic? Magic, gypsy magic, it's what I want.

Happy Reading,

P.S. - I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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The Barefoot Queen: A Novel

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1 comment:

  1. Some of the original anarchists, the gypsies! I love it. I am even more looking forward to reading this one after your reveiw.


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