The Snow Gypsy, by Lindsay Jayne Ashford, was one of the best books I’ve read this summer. In this beautiful novel, set at the closing edges of WWII, Ashford leaves both Germany and Britain behind, forgoes the soldiers and war torn lovers and takes readers high into the mountains of post WWII Spain.
The Snow Gypsy follows Rose, a British veterinarian as she searches for her beloved brother who disappeared in Spain while fighting with Gypsy partisans eight years prior. Rose’s search leads her directly into the heart and home of Lola Aragon and her gypsy family, and sends them both head first into the complexities of a small mountain community grappling with their communal wounds after the war.
Ashford is the master of simple complexity. The Snow Gypsy has a handful of characters who are rich and well developed and as complex as the flamenco rhythms Ashford employs throughout the book. Each chapter is layered with emotion, joy, fear, pride, happiness, anger, love, lust, confusion, guilt, each landing on top of the other in a complex pattern of humanity. I was particularly appreciative of how the book felt so authentic, as if Ashford was a witness to the times rather than just writing about them or putting her own romantic spin on what she hoped life would be like for Spanish Gypsies or women in the 1940’s. Unlike Yaquian in Theads of Silk, Rose’s actions and decisions were both strong and strange, but they made sense for her character, the times and the location.
The story is strong and shocking, many events were unexpected and felt true to life. I always appreciate when an author takes on a very popular subject like WWII and provides an entirely different angle from another perspective. Like The Last Train to Istanbul, The Snow Gypsy further expanded my understanding of the true reach and depth of WWII and all of those impacted.
Great beach read. 4 stars.
Until next time, happy reading!