The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones (5 out of 5)
I had to say, this monster of a book really deterred me at first. (It’s a doorstop. And it’s the holidays. I work retail management. Clearly, I’m insane).
Well, thankfully, that didn’t last. In the 1800’s, Caridad is a former Cuban slave freed by the death of her master. She wanders the hostile countryside, lost to the masses, and in a state that’s not enviable in the least. She meets and is taken under the wing of Milagros, a vivacious, ferociously independent gypsy who’s living a life best as she can; exotic lifestyle filled with dancing, exotic temptations, and forbidden desires. And danger..a lot of danger. The law mandates that gypsies are outlaws, putting many of them in danger for just existing. Think of people being deemed dangerous due to their very nationality – it’s not as if anything can be done about it, we are who we are! And it’s just wrong to judge someone as dangerous because of their nationality, geographic location, or color of skin. Milagros and Caridad are separated in their quests to stay moving and free of being jailed or worse. (PS- Worse does happen. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Or Nicholas Sparks fan. Or both. I think they may be the same). Bad things happen before the women are reunited. This book is about being free, comfortable in your skin, finding out who you really are, and most importantly, survival and rites of passage in deciding whether you want to do or be someone so reviled (for the wrong reasons). Madrid in the 1800’s was not a fun place to be, and the author doesn’t mince words in the least. If you’re put off by themes of violence, rape, or political and cultural unrest, stay away from this book. If you enjoy reading about a lifestyle and people you didn’t know much about (my hand is raised), then this tersely worded manifesto will capture your imagination and your spirit. Caridad is a unique, voracious spirit who refuses to have her life tamped down in any way, shape, or consequence, and who keeps on fighting, just because she wants to survive and live. We’ve all been there. Life is at a major crossroads and you’re not sure whether to keep trudging along in those boring old loafers or put on those stilettos and go dancing on that table in Barcelona. Put on those shoes, and live. Go read this book. It’s pretty amazing.
*I received a copy of this for free from Blogging For Books*.