Thursday, August 26, 2021

Lindsay Jayne Ashford - The Snow Gypsy

At the close of World War II, London is in ruins and Rose Daniel isn’t at peace. Eight years ago, her brother disappeared while fighting alongside Gypsy partisans in Spain. From his letters, Rose has just two clues to his whereabouts—his descriptions of the spectacular south slopes of the Sierra Nevada and his love for a woman who was carrying his child.
In Spain, it has been eight years since Lola Aragon’s family was massacred. Eight years since she rescued a newborn girl from the arms of her dying mother and ran for her life. She has always believed that nothing could make her return…until a plea for help comes from a desperate stranger.
Now, Rose, Lola, and the child set out on a journey from the wild marshes of the Camargue to the dazzling peaks of Spain’s ancient mountain communities. As they come face-to-face with war’s darkest truths, their lives will be changed forever by memories, secrets, and friendships.

Comment: In the beginning of the year I've agreed with my friend H. that we would buddy read a book a month and this one was chosen for August. This time my friend finished before I did, but my overall impression wasn't as positive as I'd have liked for the book was good enough but not amazing.

In this story we follow Rose Daniel as she travels to Spain to look for clues about her brother's fate. He was there helping the gypsies during the war and now that WWII has ended, people can travel again and she uses the opportunity to participate in a gypsy event where she hopes to find what happened to him. The only clues she has come from the letters he sent, and she is especially eager to know if the woman he loved had her child. That is how she comes to spend time with Lola Aragon, a young dancer who is taking care of the girl she rescued as baby after the massacre which killed practically everyone she knew. As the two woman get to know each other and share experiences, Rose believes the young girl could be her niece...but there are still many secrets to uncover... can Rose and Lola deal with the aftermath of them being revealed?

This is what I'd call a slow book. Things happen slowly, it doesn't seem much is going on, but still there were around 300 pages of story told. The events described are interesting, I like the WWII theme in books, there was also the Spanish civil war as background and on top of that we had gypsy characters, something that really isn't seen much in books, unless one wants non fiction or specific works.

I was, therefore, curious to see how this one would go but it soon became obvious this wouldn't be as vibrant or as engrossing as I would have imagined. I mean, the story is interesting, it does offer a plot one would see is emotional, the whole journey Rose does to try to know what happened to her brother, the plights of those she finds, the repercussions and consequences of war on those she meets, the way people, gypsies in particular are treated, all this makes for a fascinating read, but...

I'd say that, for me, the problem was how the characters are presented. I struggled to connect with them, to find traits in them that would make them special or captivating enough to feel reading about them would be special too. It's not that there is something wrong with them, no, but they seem pretty bland as the plot moves along and even when they face/go through things that are challenging. For instance, early on, Rose realizes an action has a consequence she can't accept, that makes her feel guilty and bad about herself. While this is shared as something she feels bad about, it doesn't really change her behavior, her vision of herself. It's as if this was told to shock the reader and not because it would have any impact on the story itself.

I'd say that, perhaps, the issue is the writing style. It did the job but I don't think it made things as passionate or vibrant as they could. The steady but bland manner in which the story is told makes everything happening easily or without the drama the theme and situation would imply. Rose goes alone to a foreign country, she spends time with people from a different culture, who are still seen as the enemy by many...she faces bureaucracy, poverty issues, even the dilemmas she doesn't cause herself... I didn't have the feel she was properly developed for someone without the background to "easily" deal with these things. But the writing makes it seem just like nowadays, where we can do things quickly.

I'll have to conclude that the story has the potential but the execution wasn't as well done as it could. I've finished the book, Rose and Lola were able to know things they were looking for but not even the fact they seemed to be going towards a friendship made things better, the connection between them so superficial. The book ends with an epilogue and I still feel much of the information we got during the book didn't have enough closure by then. It was a little disappointing.

This is readable, yes, has good enough moments but it wasn't as special as I would have thought.
Grade: 5/10

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