The Snow Gypsy

A few years ago, I picked up The Snow Gypsy by Lindsay Jayne Ashford. Set in Spain in the aftermath of both World War II and the Spanish Civil War, this novel follows two women whose lives will intersect as they search for a missing man and answers to his final secrets. I have a particular love for Spain—I lived there for about one year—and I’m always eager to read books set there.

Summary

The Snow Gypsy follows two women whose paths will ultimately converge. First there is Rose Daniels. Eight years ago, her brother was in Spain fighting alongside Romani partisans. He disappeared, leaving behind his pregnant partner and a vague clue as to his final whereabouts: the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Meanwhile, Lola Aragon is a Romani woman living in southern Spain. It’s been eight years since her family was massacred and she rescued a newborn baby. Lola has raised this girl, Nieve, as her own daughter. When the two women meet in France, Lola may be able to help Rose track down her long-lost brother. However, neither is prepared for the secrets they’ll uncover nor the drastic changes their lives will undergo.

Review

The two plot points for The Snow Gypsy, as well as the setting in Spain and the inclusion of Romani characters, captured my interest right away. The chapters switch between following Rose (an English woman who is looking for her missing brother) and focusing on Lola (a Romani woman in Spain with an adopted daughter named Nieve). Early on, I felt that the upcoming reveal would be obvious… but in the end I was a bit surprised. Kudos to the author for sending my guessing game down the wrong path!

Despite the book’s interesting plot and the characters’ trek across Spain, I unfortunately found the storytelling to be a bit slow. Rose is an okay but forgettable character, and she makes the same romantic mistakes again and again. The second time around, in particular, the way the romance turned out bothered me. Some of her story arcs proved to be rather anticlimactic.

Lola is a more interesting character, and her daughter is cute and a lot of fun. I loved getting to know Lola, her community, and her skill with dancing. Her backstory and the issues affecting the Romani people were more developed and intriguing than what was going on with Rose. Really, if the book had been just focused on Lola and Nieve, it may have been stronger for it.

As the novel progresses, I liked the feminist themes that arose. Perhaps Rose and Lola don’t need men in their lives; maybe they can be happier on their own or with a sisterhood of likeminded women. This novel circles issues with men—a missing brother, wayward lovers, and so on—but when it comes down to it, Rose and Lola are strong in their own right. I appreciated seeing how they grew together throughout the story.

Now, to address the elephant in the room: When I picked up The Snow Gypsy, I wasn’t aware of the history of the word “gypsy” (and its Spanish counterpart, “gitano”). It is considered a pejorative word, and has for years been used as a slur against Romani people. I believe this is more widely known in Europe, but here in the United States, I didn’t learn about this until very recently. That said, when I went in to read this novel, I did hope that it would nonetheless be sensitive to Romani people. Indeed, some of the main characters are Romani. I’m no expert, but from my view, it does seem that the author writes about them respectfully. She talks about the prejudices and racism they face, and one of the major themes here is about the horrible treatment of Romani people during Francisco Franco’s regime. So while the word choice may be (unintentionally) indelicate, the story itself and characterization seem to come from a place of respect and sensitivity. I appreciate that this novel brings attention to the ways Romani people, in particular, were treated during this era in Spain’s history, and it is something I’d like to learn more about.

Final Thoughts

While there was much that drew me to The Snow Gypsy and that I enjoyed throughout the book, overall, some weaknesses were impossible to ignore. It was a good story, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. However, I did appreciate the issues it brought up, and I would love to read more about Romani people, including those living in Spain.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy The Snow Gypsy here – it’s available as a hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

The Snow Gypsy by Lindsay Jayne Ashford
AudienceAdult
GenreHistorical Fiction
SettingSpain; France; England
Number of Pages329
Format I ReadHardcover
Original Publication DateFebruary 1, 2019

Official Summary

From the bestselling author of The Woman on the Orient Express comes a haunting novel of two women—one determined to uncover the past and the other determined to escape it.

At the close of World War II, London is in ruins and Rose Daniel isn’t at peace. Eight years ago, her brother disappeared while fighting alongside Gypsy partisans in Spain. From his letters, Rose has just two clues to his whereabouts—his descriptions of the spectacular south slopes of the Sierra Nevada and his love for a woman who was carrying his child.

In Spain, it has been eight years since Lola Aragon’s family was massacred. Eight years since she rescued a newborn girl from the arms of her dying mother and ran for her life. She has always believed that nothing could make her return…until a plea for help comes from a desperate stranger.

Now, Rose, Lola, and the child set out on a journey from the wild marshes of the Camargue to the dazzling peaks of Spain’s ancient mountain communities. As they come face-to-face with war’s darkest truths, their lives will be changed forever by memories, secrets, and friendships.

About the Author

Lindsay Jayne Ashford

Lindsay Ashford is a British novelist and journalist. Raised in Wolverhampton, Lindsay Ashford became the first woman to graduate from Queens’ College, Cambridge in its 550 year history. She gained a degree in Criminology. Lindsay Ashford was then employed as a reporter for the BBC before becoming a freelance journalist, writing for a number of national magazines and newspapers. In 1996, she took a crime writing course run by the Arvon Foundation. Her debut novel, Frozen, was published by Honno in 2003. This was the first of a series of novels featuring forensic psychologist Megan Rhys. The second book in the series, Strange Blood, was short-listed for the 2006 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. She wrote The Rubber Woman for the Quick Reads series in 2007. Her first historical novel, The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen was published in October 2011. She researched and wrote it while living in the former home of Jane Austen’s brother. The novel was being adapted for radio, broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s “Woman’s Hour” in February 2014. Her most recent novel, The Color of Secrets, was published by Amazon’s Lake Union imprint in April 2015. Her most successful book so far, it has sold over a quarter of a million copies worldwide. This and subsequent books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Lindsay Ashford lives on the Welsh coast near Aberystwyth.

More Books by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

Lindsay Jayne Ashford - The Woman on the Orient Express
Lindsay Jayne Ashford - Whisper of the Moon Moth
Lindsay Jayne Ashford - The House at Mermaid’s Cove

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