Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ildefonso Falcones - The Barefoot Queen

1748, Seville: Caridad, a recently freed Cuban slave, wanders the streets of the city. Her master is dead and she has nowhere to go. When she meets Milagro Carmona - a young, rebellious gypsy - the two women are instantly inseparable. Milagros introduces Caridad to the gypsy community, an exotic fringe society that will soon bring them love and change their life forever.
From the tumultuous bustle of 18th-century Seville to the theatres of Madrid, THE BAREFOOT QUEEN takes us into the murky world of tobacco smuggling and ther persecution of the gypsies.

Comment: This is another of the books I borrowed in Portuguese, owned by the friend that kindly lets me read some books more historical fiction oriented than what I usually look for but that fill some of my tastes here and there.

In this book we find the story of Caridad, a young negro woman from Cuba that has recently won her freedom when her master died in the ship to Spain. Now Caridad is alone, is taken advantage of but she finds friends and a new world where she feels inadequate. The new friends become family and Caridad finds a purpose.
Her new existence gets more focus when she meets Milagros and her gypsy family but everything changes when gypsies are persecuted by the Crown. Can Milagros live up to her potential? Can Caridad finally find peace?

This is the second book by this author that I read and I have to say this one isn't as interesting, as well executed or easy to want to read as the other, the Hand of Fatima.
This book lacks all the amazing developments and captivating characters I've met in the other book which made me very eager to read more and more. With this book I was more interested in finishing each page as quickly as possible so I could finally out the book aside.

I think part of my lack of interest is the plot itself. The gypsy theme isn't much about traditions or "rules" but more about who they were and how they felt they were superior to everyone else. But for the most part, the attitudes described in the book only showed cocky, aggressive and arrogant characters that we could easily see in any other book about any type of character.They kept saying they were special but nothing ever seemed particularly interesting about them as a group. The characters whose focus we saw weren't that appealing and I struggled to have any sort of interest in them.

Then there's Caridad...I liked the first chapters where we meet her, because her life was hard and I assumed she would find some sort of happiness in Spain...we are told she does but nothing I read makes me see that, in fact she was a handy character to add the smuggling tobacco theme into the story and why would she be important to the gypsies that helped her and about whom she eventually came to care about. I felt a chance was missed to portray a strong character with some message to tell us no matter what, we can endure and become better people and find happiness. But poor Caridad was used from the time she put a foot in Spain until the end, one way or another.

The fact the two main characters, former slave Caridad and gypsy young Milagros, have had such a though and awful life isn't what bothers me but in the end I don't feel they overcame their difficulties. Yes, they got some peace at the end but... if the point was to give us a realistic image of what life used to be there, a scientific non fictional story would have worked.
This "romance" has many usual ingredients to make t fascinating but I didn't care much about anything.

The writing isn't bad and we can not only see how the author has put an effort to present a realistic image of the Spain in the 18th century but also provides many little details that give strength to his knowledge and ideas. But the story, the plot isn't captivating! Too many bad things happen, to many distracting changes of focus throughout the story made me loose the little interest I had in some of the things I was reading about.
I think the book might appeal to hardcore historical fiction readers but to me it needs to have some sort of positive detail to be memorable, to make me feel glad I read something about people that won something over adversity. But this story always made me feel bad for women, for innocents, for the ones that suffered and where justice never happened. All this might be close to reality but then why read a romance in the first place if not to wish for something better to happen? I've finished the book feeling so sorry for Milagros and Caridad and how terrible women's lives were at that time. It's very depressing.

In the end, this wasn't magical like the other book I've read by the author because despite the little positive elements, the whole story didn't win me over.
I've finished but don't keep many enjoyable moments of it.
Grade: 3/10

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