A journalist’s occasionally overdone sociohistorical study of conflicts between the Gypsy community and settled communities in the U.K.
Quarmby’s involvement with British Gypsies and other traveling people began in 2006 when she covered one such group for the Economist. A Roma community at Dale Farm in Essex had caused a furor among members of the settled community. Gypsies owned the property, which, like so many other Roma-owned lands, was “undesirable” because it had been used as a waste site. But they did not have permission from the area’s district council to use it as a caravan park. By 2011, the conflict made international headlines and ended with the eventual eviction of the encamped Romas. Quarmby’s quest to understand the British Gypsies, Irish and New (non-Roma) Travelers took her to similar communities all around England and Scotland, where she learned about the devastating toll the centuries-old struggle has had on Gypsies and their families. Quarmby discovered that Romas were now turning to religion and, in particular, the Pentecostal Church, which she believes “will be the most likely source of political leadership in the coming years.” The author’s commitment to telling the story of a misunderstood and persecuted people is admirable, but for all its meticulous attention to detail, the book suffers in places from overquoting and going too deeply into the life histories of her many subjects. The result is an overwrought narrative that verges on ponderous. Quarmby’s zeal is understandable, however. It is only recently that Gypsies, voiceless for centuries, have begun to access and/or create the platforms necessary to be heard.
Informative but flawed treatment of a vast, intriguing topic.