Friday, December 27, 2019
From Slave to Gypsy
The Barefoot Queen
by Ildefonso Falcones
Set in Spain, 1748, this story is about a recently freed Cuban slave, Caridad, wandering the streets of Seville. She meets Milagros, a gypsy who sweeps Caridad into a society full of romance and art, passion and dancing, until the gypsies are declared outlaws by a royal mandate.
This is a family drama rich with historical content, and the multiple overlapping POVs add an intense layer of suspense. I had no idea how it would end, even when I was down to the last page.
With three strong central female characters (Milagros Vega, Ana Vega and Caridad), the title of Barefoot Queen could apply to anyone of them. Caridad, a former Cuban slave living among gypsies, realizes that even though she is free of the tobacco plantation, it takes more than a document to truly feel free. Milagros learns the value of family by surviving the nightmare that is her marriage, and Ana becomes stronger than even she could imagine when she fights tooth and nail against the imprisonment of the gypsies. Melchor (Ana's father, grandfather to Milagros and the man who brings Caridad into the gypsy fold) is the one who ties the fates of the women together.
I love how all the characters struggle to find their place in the world, without losing who they are inside. The details of the gypsy culture creates a deep texture to the various storylines. More than once I cried while I was reading this novel...it's impossible not to feel the emotions of the characters.
I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.