Reading Group 1 Book Review – Jan 23 – ‘Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two’ by Maggie Smith-Bendell

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.

Group Review:

Rabbit Stew followed the lives of a Romany family growing up and travelling through the south west of England. It depicted the lifestyle, customs and challenges as they tried to make a living in the traditional ways. The author had very little schooling but managed to support her mother and later her father as was expected. She also spoke out for other Romany families who were facing challenges with the authorities and often called upon to fight for them which was interesting. She didn’t talk about the perception of litter being left as they moved location and although the book was interesting it did seem to gloss over some of the more unpleasant aspects of life in communities.


Posted in Reading Group 1.