Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two by Maggie Smith-Bendell

About the book

Born on a Somerset pea-field in 1941, the second of eight children in a Romani family, Maggie Smith-Bendell has lived through the years of greatest change in the travelling community’s long history. As a child, Maggie rode and slept in a horse-drawn wagon, picked hops and flowers, and sat beside her father’s campfire on ancient verges, poor but free to roam. As the twentieth century progressed, common land was fenced off and the traditional ways disappeared. Eventually Maggie married a house-dweller and tried to settle for bricks and mortar, but she never lost the restless spirit, the deep love of the land and the gift for storytelling that were her Romani inheritance. Maggie’s story is one of hardship and prejudice, but also, unforgettably, it recalls the glories of the travelling life, in the absolute safety of a loyal and loving family.

Reviewed by The Benches

Disappointing book- added very little to our knowledge of Romany life apart from some traditions concerning death. Interesting aspect, but touched on only briefly was their plight during both World Wars. Many family photo reproductions throughout the book which could potentially have been an interesting area to explore. Perhaps a ‘ghost’ writer could have probed and expanded what became a basic book. Could, maybe make, with a skilful interviewer, an interesting radio programme. The writing was dire and rambling.

star rating – * ½


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