Monday, June 1, 2015

read | The Barefoot Queen

When I first heard of The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones, its premise drew me in immediately. The story of a freed slave and a gypsy befriending each other seemed different from anything I'd read before, as did the fact that it was set in the middle of the eighteenth century in Spain.This book features cultures and locales that I have had minimal exposure to, and I was excited to explore a historical novel to which I brought virtually no prior knowledge.

This book includes everything from feuding to murder to political persecution. Caridad, a slave, is freed by her dying master as they sail from Cuba to Spain, and she is left completely alone as she arrives in a new land. She soon falls in with young gypsy Milagros and is soon swept up in the tense relations between gypsy families. Everything is shaken up when the king orders a roundup of all gypsies, and those who are not captured and imprisoned scatter across Spain. This book is the story of the struggles several characters endure while they try to find their way back to each other.

I have to admit, the size of this book had me putting it off for a long time. At 641 pages, it's a great investment if you're trying to fill your bookshelf. When I did finally get around to it, the book kept calling me back. Though it took a long time, I was reading it consistently all the way through. The book is divided into six parts, though I don’t think that was necessary. I don’t know if this was the publisher’s way of making the book seem less daunting, but for the most part the extra blank pages just threw me out of the otherwise seamless story for a few seconds. While the book is definitely near the cap of readable length for a standalone novel, there were sections of this book that I felt could have had much more detail. It’s a testament to how much I enjoyed the writing and the story that I wanted to read more since the book is already so long.

The Barefoot Queen is a great historical novel with a refreshing setting and compelling characters. My one warning is that it does involve several scenes of rape, both graphic and implied, and they are throughout the book. If you can handle the heavy subject matter (and the heavy weight of the 600 pages), definitely give this one a try.
4 out of 5 stars
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.