Damian Le Bas spent his childhood around travellers, hearing stories about his Romani heritage from his great-grandmother, spoken in the Roma tongue. In a bid to discover more about his own roots, Le Bas kits out a Ford Transit and heads on the road, touring the stopping places of old and new on a search for answers about his ancestry.
Somehow they are still being them, still thwarting explanations or attempts to sum up Gypsies in words. I look across to Cand and see she is smiling too, the fast fresh air of Cumbria tumbling in across her face and hair like freedom.
I don’t think I’ve ever read non-fiction as beautifully written as this. Le Bas’s writing is lyrical and enchanting from the very first page. Part-travelogue, part-micro-history, Le Bas journeys up and down Britain, even sojourning into France for the traditional Roma pilgrimage to Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. Interpersed between travel stories, Le Bas tells anecdotes from his childhood, as well as explaining Roma history, language, and culture. I learned so much from this book whilst also being deeply entertained by the stories and captivated by the writing. Since we’ve just elected a government that ran on a manifesto of prejudice against the Roma community, books like this are more important than ever in battling the long-held prejudices that this country holds against the Traveller community.
Rating: 5 / 5 stars