Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden

Cover shown is the 1972 Macmillan Ltd (UK) first edition hardcover. Jacket art and illustrations by Creina Glegg. 140p.

This was a favourite childhood book of mine - I went through a phase when all I wanted to be was a gypsy, travelling round the countryside in a brightly decorated caravan, wearing lots of jewellery, dancing round the campfire and having some handsome gypsy boy fall in love with me. Embarrassingly, I think this was first influenced by reading an Asterix & Obelix comic...

"A diddakoi is someone who is half-gypsy, but wholly-gypsy was how Kizzy felt and wholly-gypsy was how the children in school treated her - which was bearable as long as they, Kizzy Gran and Old Joe the caravan horse, were left alone in Admiral Twiss's orchard. But Gran was really Kizzy's great-great-grandmother, and there came the night when Kizzy, bereft and desolate, heard the other campers discussing her future over her head - no child of theirs and a diddakoi at that - and Boyo whispered that Joe was going to the knackers to be 'torn up' by the hounds. That was why Peters, the Admiral's man, found Kizzy sitting half-frozen on the threshold of Amberhurst House, with Joe's halter clutched in her hand.

Mrs Cuthbert was sure she knew what would be good for Kizzy; the Admiral and Miss Brooke wondered and worried. Kizzy herself, fiercely, wanted nothing from anyone. Give in to 'them' she would not. Except for Peters and the Admiral and Nat the bowlegged groom... but what could three men alone in the woman-less Great House do with one small diddakoi?

This is a deliciously satisfying story of the human spirit. It reflects Rumer Godden's long-held interest in the ways of the 'travelling people', her rueful understanding of the casual cruelties of childhood, and her vividly communicable relish in sights, smells, sounds, places, people and all small things."

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