Written By: Lindsay Jayne Ashford
Published By: Lake Union Publishing
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
When British veterinarian and accomplished author Rose Daniel’s brother disappeared after joining the partisans during the Spanish Civil War, she wanted to search for him immediately. Her father attempted to do so, but was detained as a Jew and died attempting to prevent Nazis from murdering other Jews. And so, Rose would have to wait until the end of World War II to search for Nathan. She doesn’t have much to go on – just a letter in which Nathan tells her that he met a woman while fighting amongst the Gypsies during the war. There is a description of a special fountain that brings love to anyone who drinks from it and a hopefulness as Nathan tells Rose of the baby he and his special love are expecting. Rose sets off on her journey, hoping against hope that Nathan is well.
Eight years before Rose’s travels, a child named Lola Aragon is tending to a flock of sheep when she hears a series of gunshots. She returns home to find her family has been murdered amongst several people from the village. There are only two survivors – a young woman, not long for this world, and the baby she has just given birth to. The woman begs Lola to save her baby. A child herself, somehow Lola manages to rescue the newborn, walking great distances in a mountainous region to find shelter for herself and the baby. She will raise Nieve as her own, living with distant family and becoming a Flamenco dancer to raise money, dreaming of one day traveling to Madrid to become a Flamenco dancer in the movies.
Rose and Lola’s paths will cross in France during a festival. It is there that Rose will discover that Lola knows the fountain Nathan’s brother wrote about. She is from the village Nathan met the love of his life in. But, as she explains to Rose, she cannot return thanks to the demons plaguing her ever since the day she lost her family. Hearing the story of Lola’s survival, she can’t help but wonder if Nieve is not her son’s child. Will Rose ever find her brother alive? Will she and Lola ever discover the truth behind Nieve’s parentage? Will Lola ever make her dreams a reality?
The Snow Gypsy, by Lindsay Jayne Ashford, is a tale centered on the strength of its female characters. Though not perfect – Rose can tend to be too trusting and is definitely unlucky in love – Rose and Lola have strength of conviction and a fire that keeps them fighting, in some cases, for their very survival. By comparison, most of the lead males in the novel are portrayed in a poor light. With one or two exceptions, they are adulterous, deceptive, and in some cases quite treacherous.
While engrossing you in the mystery of Nathan’s disappearance and the parentage of Nieve, The Snow Gypsy also reveals the harshness of the Spanish Civil War and the anger, resentment and shame felt by citizens after the war was over. It also discusses how the world viewed Gyspies at the time – from the ways they were treated by Spaniards to the suffering imparted on them by the Nazis, Gypsies were often viewed as the lowest of the low in society. Ignorance is key to hate and knowledge the key to acceptance. Thus, the author does an excellent job in her attempt to shed some light on the Gypsy culture, providing the reader insight into an incredibly misunderstood group.
I have read others complain about the various historical inaccuracies in the novel. Despite my love of history, I can’t say I’m very knowledgeable about the Spanish Civil War, so I can’t speak to any of that. I can say that the likeable characters, the descriptive writing and the need to solve the mystery of Nathan’s disappearance drew me in, making The Snow Gypsy a book I couldn’t seem to put down until the very last page. Quite an enjoyable read.