by Rumer Godden
I think this was only other unread Godden on my shelves, I looked for it immediately after finishing The Kitchen Madonna. It wasn\’t quite as intriguing to me, but still a good book. It\’s about a gypsy girl who lives with her grandmother in their wagon on a certain gentleman\’s land- he\’s called the Admiral. When her grandmother dies, the gypsy girl Kizzy is left adrift- she\’s actually only half gypsy so the other \”travellers\” are reluctant to take her in, and she herself adamantly rebuffs attempts to put her in a children\’s home. When she hears that her grandmother\’s old horse will probably be sold for dogfood, she runs off with the horse and ends up on the Admiral\’s doorstep. Of course he takes her in and nurses her through pneumonia, but then the whole village knows where she is and no-one thinks it right for a household of \”three old men\” to raise a child. They argue over who should be responsible for her; meanwhile she sinks into bitterness. By the time someone volunteers to give her a home, she has her heels set and is determined to make the kind woman miserable, as well as hatching plans to run away with the old horse, or go back to the Admiral\’s house. She\’s such a fierce, determined child.
There\’s another storyline going on alongside all this- the children at school (which Kizzy resents attending) tease and bully her mercilessly. The teacher tries awkwardly to make things stop, but the children just carry their animosity outside the schoolyard and attack Kizzy while she is walking home. When things look dire she is rescued- and finds she has been gaining more friends than she was aware of. Eventually Kizzy comes around to trust some people, to respond to kindness, but she never looses her longing for independence, to live the way her grandmother did. She finds her way in the end, also finds ways to make amends with the other children, and to find a more solid home. There are glimpses into the culture and lifestyle of the gypsies, and the climactic event of a fire surprised me with its vividness- I really wasn\’t expecting that of this author for some reason. Dramatic, but pulled everything together nicely.
Rating: 4/5 147 pages, 1972