The Barefoot Queen

The Barefoot Queen: A Novel - Ildefonso Falcones

Thank you to Crown Publishing for providing me with an egalley copy of the book to review.

I will say, as a disclaimer, that I gave up on this book after reading 28%. It took me five days to even get through that much, and that fact, paired up with my lack of desire to keep reading, is what makes me draw my conclusion:

It’s not a bad book, but it definitely isn’t the kind I see myself reading more of and getting engaged with the plot and characters.

The plot is broad enough to get a good feeling of a historical timeframe but at the same time narrow enough to help the reader latch on to something. In this case it’s the story of Caridad, a freed Cuban slave that arrives in Spain and her misadventures until she finally joins the gypsy community and lives with them. It’s a dark plot, that’s no secret, considering the kind of treatment blacks and gypsies faced at that time. 

What Falcones was good at was painting a portrait of Spain and the city, as well as any place where the action was taking place, really. It was the one thing I DID enjoy in the book, as little of it that I did read. I look for that quality to the writing whenever I pick up a novel and in that sense this book was a success. If you want an idea of what kind of place the world was, what kind of people inhabited Spain, what a glimpse at daily life of a specific group of people was, give this book a read, you won’t be disappointed. In terms of characters however this doesn’t happen.

Other than that the story was pretty flat and emotionless. I didn’t connect with any of the characters and kept waiting for even the slightest jump in the action to occur, to keep me interested and reading. At best I read several chapters a day; at worst, I hardly could get through one. It wasn’t consistent in terms of the events and characters, which lacked growth and emotion and remained as flat characters on the paper. It didn’t have that engaging spark that formed a bond between the writing and the reader, and some descriptions were so long and felt somewhat unnecessary that it became easy to skip over several lines and still be able to keep track of what was going on. The first section of the book and the one chapter of the second section which I read were pretty standard writing, nothing too mind-boggling in terms of description or language, although the setting they painted was vivid. 

A book that felt average at best it will appeal, again, to a certain type of reader, perhaps one that doesn’t harbor any prior assumptions or is more familiar with the time period. Or maybe what this book just needs is another patient reader, as this is one that, I daresay, you won’t finish in a day or two or even three. It needs to be given time and attention as well as interest to let its effect sink in and work. For me, who couldn’t develop any kind of bond with the characters and their lives, there was simply a lack of interest to keep going deeper into their world.