- Please note that this book was previously published as Our Forgotten Years: A Gypsy Woman's Life on the Road. No updates have been made to the content of the book.
Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two Paperback – 16 Sep 2010
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* An enchanting and utterly absorbing memoir of a forgotten way of life
* Previously published as Our Forgotten Years
About the Author
Maggie Smith-Bendell runs an advisory service for Gypsies and Travellers, and campaigns for the rights of Gypsies.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you want to know more about the true life of a Romani then read this down to earth book. The book tells of Maggie's early life, born into a Romani gypsy family in the 1940s in the Cotswolds. She lived the traditions and travelling life of the Romani people - a life that has now almost disappeared, due to misunderstanding and bureaucracy. As she takes you through the years she talks about traditions, beliefs and everyday life which was hard, but enjoyable. She decided from an early age that she would marry a gorja - a house dweller, which is what she did, and for many years struggled to live in a house whilst longing for the travelling life, and now lives in a trailer on her own land. She brought her sons up in the traveller traditions and rounds off the book by bringing her life up to date with her work to help other Romani recognise and embrace their culture and be proud of it, whilst also fighting to retain their ways of life. There's a useful list of Romani words at the back, which Maggie uses in the book and some FAQ about some of the misconceptions about Romani.
I knew next to nothing at all about the Traveller community before reading this book and had a number of preconceived misconceptions. Whilst heavily biased in favour of the Romani Traveller community, I particularly enjoyed reading this book because it was educational, informative and often quite humorous. The Romani Traveller community have a rich culture and heritage and are often judged by others when they first appear on the brow of a hill. The author acknowledges that not all Travellers are honest, hardworking individuals, but she quite adroitly points to the fact that there are rotten apples in every barrel across society.
The author describes her community as a loving, hardworking, joyful group of people whose main difference from those who reside within homes of bricks and mortar is the love of the open road and an ever-changing backdrop. Again, whilst remembering that the book was written about Romani Travellers by a Romani author, I was disappointed and saddened to read about the incidents where hatred and anger were directed towards the children. On the other hand however, there were frequent examples of love and generosity from Travellers to non-travellers and from non-travellers to Travellers.
I heartily recommend this book as an introductory read to anyone who like me has little knowledge of this fascinating people. Give it a try and read it with an open mind. I tried to do so and found the results, vastly rewarding!
My main criticism was that with the large gypsy families of up to 17 children (the author was one of eight which is small by gypsy standards), there were so many characters popping up in the book, often only for just a page or two - it was quite hard to keep track of who was who. Aunties and uncles appeared in the text and I was left wondering how they fitted in to the family or if I'd come across them in previous chapters. So I didn't feel that I finished the book with an intimate portrait of the family firmly in my head - it's more the general story of the way of life with a few specific incidents recounted. A family tree would be a good addition for the next edition!
The last few chapters of the book race though the period of the author's life from the time she got married and settled in a permanent location - and all the work she's done for Traveller's Rights. They feel as if they were tacked on, change the mood of the book and don't read so well. On the plus side, there are a lot of reproductions of family photos throughout the text and at the end of the book - unusual for a paperback.
Whatever, it's certainly an interesting antidote to "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" currently airing on Channel 4.
I have learnt a lot about gypsy life from this book.A few pages at the end give details of gypsy believes and traditions with lots of family photos.
I got another book for my mother- in- law for her birthday as she too was interested in gypsy life.
For everyone out there who likes a relaxing read this book is worth getting,I just know you will enjoy it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Read this book it was amazing to read how the gypsys survive in a wagon on a piece of land .such clean people .not like people perseve them . interesting read .Published 2 months ago by samsung