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Gypsy Boy: One Boy's Struggle to Escape from a Secret World [Hardcover]

Mikey Walsh
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (285 customer reviews)

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Book Description

23 July 2009

Mikey was born into a Romany Gypsy family. They live in a closeted community, and little is known about their way of life. After centuries of persecution Gypsies are wary of outsiders and if you choose to leave you can never come back.

This is something Mikey knows only too well.

Growing up, he didn't go to school, he seldom mixed with non-Gypsies and the caravan became his world. It was a rich and unusual upbringing and Mikey grew up surrounded by a memorable cast of eccentrics, including his three-foot tall grandmother- a fierce matriarch who didn't let her diminutive stature get in her way, and his flame-haired mother with a penchant for Dynasty, Angel Delight and electric blue mascara...

But although Mikey inherited a vibrant and loyal culture his family's legacy was bittersweet with a hidden history of violence and grief.

Eventually Mikey was forced to make an agonising decision - to stay and keep secrets, or escape and find somewhere to belong.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; First Edition edition (23 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340977965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340977965
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 14.9 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (285 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 632,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Explosive, sparkling and hugely entertaining - this is a twisted fairytale from a truly original mind (Hayley Atwell, star of The Duchess and Brideshead Revisited)

Gypsy Boy is a brilliant but bittersweet story, which reads like a magical fairytale. Although he could be excused for doing so, Mikey never descends into self pity - and has found the perfect balance between humour and harsh reality. Gypsy Boy sits somewhere between the grittiness of Irvine Welsh, and the charming warmth of Frank McCourt. (Dermot O'Leary)

Book Description

A classic tale of triumph over adversity, this is the story of one boy's struggle to escape from a secret world.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
127 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and brilliant memoir 18 Oct 2009
Gypsy Boy is my book of the year, and I would urge everyone to read it. It's the autobiographical story of Mikey Walsh, a boy growing up as a Romany Gypsy during the 80s and 90s. The pictures he paints of life in the camps, the Gypsy culture, and the Gypsy characters who had a major impact on his life (as they're not allowed to socialise with Gorgias - non-Gypsies) are stunningly vivid, conjuring in few words a real sense of place, so that as you read it's as if you can see and smell the places he describes, and as if you're watching the events unfold. Walsh uses a beautiful, lyrical narrative style, but never at the expense of clarity.

The early chapters about his birth and infancy leave his relatives to tell the story, and it helps to establish his mother and sister; as well as set up the major driving force of the narrative - his father's expectations for him. A prize-fighter himself, his father requires Mikey to carry on the line of well-respected Walshes, but it's clear from his first boxing lessons as a young child that he's never going to measure up and grow into the tough, fierce man that's required of him. Without any trace of self-pity, Walsh unflinchingly describes a childhood of horrendous physical, and even sexual abuse; but through using moments of tenderness and wit, he injects humour and pathos in equal measure, as he crafts a captivating story about a boy growing up and trying to fit in with the demands of his culture and satisfy his father's sense of honour. From the passages about his time at school, to the distance that grew between him and his sister, to the hopes he had for the future, Walsh carries you along with the power of his story-telling, and I found myself speeding up the pace of my reading, I was so keen to find out what happened next.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Touched My Soul 7 April 2010
I can't believe that anyone could rate this with anything less than 5 stars. I was going to say that it was my favorite book of the year but then I realised that it is probably my favorite book ever. I brought it for my holiday and after reading one page I couldn't put it down and now Im ready for my holiday with a case full of books that will never live up to it. I genuinly feel sorry for people that let this book pass them by. I brought it on recommendation and it really did touch my soul. It is a rollercaoster ride of emotions and anyone who thinks this paints gyspies in a bad light couldn't be more wrong. He really could have chosen to go down that road but he hasnt. This is a man that proves that what doesnt kill you makes you stronger. Mikey didn't go to school and he seldom mixed with non-Gypsies and went through so many hard times yet he has written a book which which would be an achievment on its own. You will be shocked, you will probably shed a tear and you will definitly laugh out loud. He never wallows in self pity and is just telling his life story. He has been brave his whole life. He was a brave child and an even braver man.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hit me broadside 11 Jan 2010
By Aiden S
This book affected me and hit me broadside right from the off. Gruelling in parts, it is one of the most compelling and powerful books I have ever read. I struggled on several occasions with its subject, but only because it was so well written and I felt truly invested in it.

I have never been moved to tears by a book before, but Walsh's book had me unashamedly reaching for Kleenex on many occasions. His writing is not all misery-lit, though, and he spices it with some wonderful humour, too. It is in this honesty of pain and good cheer that the book's power lies as it is completely absent of self-pity. I hope this book is a runaway success.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourites 17 Feb 2010
By Loukas
I'm a difficult reader in terms of what i choose to read and what i like after al and i have to say that this book grab my attention form page one and i couldn't stop reading, finishing the one chapter and feeling thirsty for more and more and as a result i have finished reading the book within 2 days....and now i'm wishing the author to release a new story. Definitely gets a place on the top favourite books of mine and proudly it will hold one of the prominent places on bookcase.

A story that makes you shed a tear and before you even realise you have a big smile on your face again and this goes on and on throughout the whole book, you never get bored. A brave child, becoming a respectable adult through laugh and tears, a story that you can sense the honesty and reality of it on your skin, becoming one with the character(s). I definitely recommend it!

One thing i don't understand is why amazon relates it only with other gay content books. I think is not the right reference. Is about a kid with dreams growing up in a family in which the laws and culture doesn't allow you to dream and think outside the box, everything is pre-set for you but if you have the courage you can overcome and achieve whatever you have dreamed of and more. Is about self determination, human power of mind and soul.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please read 26 Feb 2010
By Dolly
As like some one else who wrote a review I to know Mikey, he is a cousin of mine on is mothers side. Mikey is a hero in my eyes, to come out not only being gay but also writing this book is a true testament to his bravery. It highlights some of the inherited ways to which we were all brought up to live by and believe, however we have to remember this is a book so not all of the information is necessarily true. There is obviously a lot in there to make it good reading. I do know Mikey's farther was very hard on him as yes these beatings did take place. All in all his farther and the whole of his fathers family should be ashamed! This book has only come into light in the traveling community in the past few weeks and to say it has caused a massive rift is an understatement. What I will say is that everyone I have spoken to congratulates Mikey on doing this only the people that have something to hide DO NOT. But please everyone that's reads this book, not all travelers are what they are portrayed to be.
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