Author: Mary Paulson
Publisher: Eloquent Book New York, New York
If you are particularly thrilled by the “historical” part of a historical novel you will find a treasure trove in The Swedish Gypsy by Mary Paulson. Ms. Paulson did a wealth of research for this novel and filled it with interesting insights into both the lives of the gypsies and the political and economical atmosphere of Sweden in the late 1800’s and very early 1900’s.
As Ms. Paulson follows the lives of Lillie, a gypsy girl, and
Amalia and Frederik, a pair of youngsters from the upper middle class
who eventually marry, she paints a detailed picture of the
differences in their lives and upbringing. She delves into women’s
places in both the gypsy lifestyle and in upper-middle class society
of turn-of-the-century Sweden and gives insights to the early
stirrings of discontent some women felt, especially within the gypsy
community. She also reveals much of the turmoil experienced by
Sweden’s burgeoning labor movement, the set-backs and trials they
experienced as they strove to make a better life for themselves, and
how those throes of upheaval affected the everyday lives of a
majority of the Swedish people.
Unfortunately Ms. Paulson puts so much emphasis on her historical insights and facts that the story is somewhat lost along the way. I found the plot often rambling as side trips were taken to examine historical reasons behind various aspects of the story. The fire and vitality of both Lilly and Amalia were lost in under-written action scenes and defused by stiff and unrealistic dialogue.
Fredrik’s unconventional interests, involvement with the intellectual and theatrical crowds, as well as his interactions with Lilly’s brother, Bruno, are watered-down and pale. The descriptions of the gypsy camps and their celebrations, Fredrik’s flamboyant stage appearances and his political forays left this reader longing for so much more.
That is not to say I did not enjoy the book. I was intrigued by Ms. Paulson’s glimpses into the lives of gypsies at the turn of the century and her observations about Swedish culture. Ms. Paulson’s book is a great beginning for what could become a passionate love affair with the gypsy lifestyles and culture.