The Little Gypsy: A Life of Freedom, a Time of Secrets by Roxy Freeman
|The Little Gypsy: A Life of Freedom, a Time of Secrets by Roxy Freeman|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: This is a fascinating account of a travelling childhood infected by a cloud of fear. Roxy Freeman can not only write but shows herself to be a survivor and inspiration.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: August 2011|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
Roxy Freeman, born to a life of freedom and open roads, shares a gypsy caravan with her parents, brother and four sisters. As a child she may not have gone to school but from an early age her skills, suited to living off the land, surpassed those of her more traditional peers. However, her innocence is stolen from her by family friend, 'Uncle' Tony and her childhood becomes tainted by fear and secrets.
For most of us the travelling community’s culture is tinged with negativity. They live amongst us but the idea of preferring a roaming lifestyle to a house-based existence is alien to the suburban Brit. We only pause to think of travellers when our worlds collide: if they’re eccentric enough to appear in My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding or if they’re the news story of that particular day. The Little Gypsy allows the reader a glimpse of ordinary people who just happen to live in a different way, and it’s a fascinating insight.
Roxy lived with this culture clash. She grew up avoiding the local house-dwelling people as it would nearly always end in tears. Roxy is only a second-generation traveller though. Her grandparents weren’t only traditional house-dwellers, they were rich and American.
Roxy’s mother, Dixey, met Dik when she was 17 and on holiday in Ireland. Dixey presented her relationship to her distraught parents as a fait accomplis: something they would have to accept if they ever intended seeing her again. Dixey’s father went on to buy the Freeman family a house. However, Dik, a man with a short-fuse and his own ideas on how marriage should work, just moved his horse into the lower floor and the family stayed in the caravan.
The passages that show this contrast most are the fascinating descriptions comparing their day-to-day lifestyle with the standard of living encountered by Roxy when she went to her grandparent’s holiday home in Spain. Roxy also discovered that a life of opulence (even a temporary one) has its own price-tag: restriction.
The most difficult sections to write must have been those describing the subtle way in which 'Uncle' Tony insinuated himself into their lives, grooming and, later, abusing Roxy and her younger sister. This could so easily have become another sensational 'victim' autobiography but the writing style takes the reader somewhere different. The author writes in a very matter of fact, documentary way. There are no hysterics, no 'poor me' attitude, no graphic scenes. There’s just an account by a woman who has come to terms with her past and wants to pass on the lessons learnt. The emotion is almost hidden behind the words, materialising in the readers’ minds as they realise the implications and put themselves in the young Roxy’s place.
By avoiding drama, this is not writing as therapy but a document that shows how a paedophile operates, isolating their prey from those who would be able to break the vice-like grip. I maintain my 'no spoilers' policy, but be reassured that this book does end positively. This is more than the story of the travelling community, an invisible world within our own. More importantly than that, it’s also the story of someone who writes seriously of terror that doesn’t exist under every flower pot as the red-tops may have us believe, but in enough places for it to necessitate warning others seriously. Perhaps, just as seriously, we should listen.
I would like to thank Roxy Freeman for giving thebookbag.co.uk a copy of this book for review.
If you've enjoyed this and would like to read more of the travellers' culture, try Gypsy Boy on the Run by Mikey Walsh .
You can read more book reviews or buy The Little Gypsy: A Life of Freedom, a Time of Secrets by Roxy Freeman at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Little Gypsy: A Life of Freedom, a Time of Secrets by Roxy Freeman at Amazon.com.
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