The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

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After this one, Stef Penney’s first novel (The Tenderness of Wolves) is on my must read – urgently list!

(there are no spoilers in this review, so don’t worry about reading on!)

The Invisible Ones is about the lesser-known world of Gypsies and a mystery that surrounds a very secluded family. There’s a vanished young bride, a young boy with a family curse, a great-uncle/father/brother who could be in the know, but we’re not really sure. There’s a sassy sister with bright red shoes and one of two main characters that I thought was a girl until halfway through the book. There’s a murder. Or not?

Written in a fun and dynamic way, the story tugs you along, giving you tiny clues about what is, in the end, a completely surprising and unexpected ending. Like a mouse being fed bacon crumbs, I couldn’t put it down. While the crumbs are being dispensed, the characters develop into whole, original, realistic people that could very well exist and you start to actually feel for their problems and successes.

How satisfying it is when he meets his ex-wife and feels nothing, after months of struggling with the breakup. How terrifying it is when he’s alone, his arm swollen and infected, with just a horse for company and no adult in sight. How disappointing it is when we discover her job. How frustrating that we can’t share a beer with him on his birthday.

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The novel is also one of my favourite kinds of novel, that give me insights on worlds I know nothing about: in this case, the travelling families of the UK Rom community. Their issues with school, and bullying. Their problems with the “local” population. Their strength and their feuds, their beliefs and their unity.

Pointless to say, I really liked it. And reading it in the autumn with a warm cup of orange chai tea was simply the best thing. Ever.

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