Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Year the Gypsies Came

Another book that I wanted to read after my high school librarian booktalked it.

Set in South Africa during Apartheid, Emily's family is falling apart. Mother and Father rarely speak, and when they do it is just to argue. Mother is upset that Father isn't keeping her in the lifestyle that she imagined for herself, and Father is tired of Mother's browbeating. The only time that her parents seem to stop arguing is when other people stay at their compound. This time it's the gyspies.

Not gypsies like one would imagine, her Father assures Emily. This is a wandering family from Australia. Jock, the nature photographer, wife Peg (with her omnipresent snake Opalina around her neck), and sons Otis and Streak. It's plain to see that Otis is simply not right in the head, and Streak is a bit of a wild one himself. Emily immediately takes to Streak, and sister Sarah is so kind and gentle that Otis' ways do not seem to bother her.

The family's night watchman, Buza, has a bad feeling about these visitors. Emily spends her evenings with Buza, listening to his Zulu stories. He is the only person who can make Emily feel whole as her family splinters apart.


This is a beautifully written tragedy. Emily is young enough that her emotions are raw and on the surface and Linzi Glass writes her voice perfectly. In fact there are no weak characters in this story. Each is integral, and everyone grows in some way.

I have a bit of an interest in South Africa as a friend of mine lived there for several years, and I have recently aquired a South African penpal. However, I think that this is a book that will appeal to most fans of the written word. It is not for younger YAs as themes of infidelity, sexual abuse, and death are present. It is, however, wonderfully written and a pleasure (despite the pain) to read.

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