Recently, I have been reading the autobiographical (and Sunday Times Bestseller) Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh.

Mikey was born into a Romany Gypsy family. They live in a closeted community, and little is known about their way of life. After centuries of persecution Gypsies are wary of outsiders and if you choose to leave you can never come back. This is something Mikey knows only too well. Growing up, he rarely went to school, and seldom mixed with non-Gypsies. The caravan and camp were his world. But although Mikey inherited a vibrant and loyal culture his family’s legacy was bittersweet with a hidden history of grief and abuse. Eventually Mikey was forced to make an agonising decision — to stay and keep secrets, or escape and find somewhere he could truly belong.

As you can probably guess, this book is a rather emotive read and it also gives a fascinating insight into the Romany Gypsy way of life. I think that it helps us non-travelling folk (aka ‘Gorgias’) to understand the Gypsy view points, and highlights that there is a big distinction between Romany Gypsies and the apparently more disruptive Irish Travellers with whom the Romany Gypsies are oft mistaken with.

Of course, it is incredibly hard for me, as a reviewer, to review a book such as this. What one has to remember above everything else is that this is Mikey’s real life story that I am discussing, and I would never seek to belittle his experiences or worse, to patronise  him. If I make any clumsy comments, I hope that they’re not taken in such veins.

Many people may remember A Child Called It series of frankly horrific books that burned themselves into your memory, and like me, you may be expecting Gypsy Boy to share experiences and emotions of that scale. However, what Mikey’s book admirably does is to remain remarkably upbeat, even when describing some pretty shocking stuff, and ultimately Gypsy Boy still seeks to defend and explain the Romany Gypsy way of life, despite the story that Mikey has to tell. There is not one trace of bitterness in the book, and I can openly say that I think that makes Mikey Walsh a better man than I am – I really don’t think that I’d be able to be so forgiving or strong having gone through the experiences described in this book.

Having been totally immersed in the story of Mikey Walsh and his gypsy upbringing for several days now whilst I was reading the book, I found the writing style very effective – I wasn’t really sat on the 07:57 train into London, instead I was sat in a gypsy caravan in Reading or getting ready to join a travelling convoy whilst playing with Mikey and his beloved He-Man toys. There still remains some romanticism about the gypsy way of life (maybe I read too many Enid Blyton books as a child!), and so I found it very easy to get swept into this book, to identify with the colourful cast of characters in Mikey’s life, and to hang on his every word.

I think the book would also be an inspirational read for fellow gay people, especially those struggling with the idea of ‘coming out’. Although the book is not really about Mikey’s sexuality, it does come into it quite strongly in places, and I think that it shows that above everything else, and despite inherent prejudices or fears of abandonment, things can work out much better than you’d expect.

Regular readers of Attitude magazine may recall the awesome interview that they ran with Mikey in their issue last year (requires a quick registration with the Attitude website to read).

If you are considering your next book to read, I would strongly suggest this book.

I was very lucky to have conversed fairly frequently with Mikey via twitter recently – I think that I was one of his first followers. I have no idea how he came across my twitter account to start following me, I can only presume that it was because of my love of 80s cartoons which, from reading Gypsy Boy, it is evident we shared. I’d certainly go along with the notion that He-Man was the best (but I still throw in Thundercats as being equally as good!). I noticed that several of my twitter-friends also started to get in contact with him and it seemed that he had a lot in common with us all. Alas, when I came to tweet to him last night to tell him that I’d finished his book, I noticed that he’d disappeared, which was a huge shame, having only chatted in 140 character sentences for a few weeks.  Hopefully he’ll re-surface sometime soon and he’ll get to read this blog post.

I don’t think that it would be spoiling Gypsy Boy to say that I am very happy that things have worked out very well for Mikey. In all the interviews that he’s given, he’s always commented on how happy he now is, and the book itself even opens with this. Now a thirty year old man with his whole life ahead of him, one can only want to wish him continued success and I am sure that we’re all thrilled that he managed to get  his ‘happily ever after’.

‘Gypsy Boy’ is published by Hodder, and is out now at all good bookshops and online retailers.

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About Gari

Northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

13 Responses

  1. Ryan

    This book was excellent, being a gorgia as it were I had a 9 year relationship with a Gypsy traveller and I could very much relate to this book in its entirety…..especially the amount of aunts and uncles and cousins my late partner had …

    Excellent Read


  2. Elise

    I read this book in one day, I could not put it down-
    I shed some tears for Mikey and I am so pleased he is now happy and living life as he should!
    All in all a fantastic book, would def recommend!


  3. Tracey

    I just loved this book, couldn’t put it down and i have passed it on to my friend.. ( with my name written in the front so i get it back )… I too found myself drifting into his world. Sharing some of the more mischievious experiences.
    Well done and thankyou for sharing your life..
    ( an 80’s kid ) x


  4. I want to say that I recently read Gypsy Boy having never heard of Mikey walsh and knowing almost nothng about the Romany Gypsy way of life. I was totally absorbed by the book and found it an education. It gave me so much insight and understanding.

    I do admire and respect the man who wrote it and who finally had the courage to leave and ultimately find happiness. I wish him all the best for the futrure.



  5. I think I must have read an entirely different book because all it did for me was reassert what a bunch of ‘no good, morally bereft, thieving scumbags’ Gypsies are. Mickey puts the blame for his peoples lifestyle (life choice) firmly on the Irish

    The book was given to me as a second hand read and I stopped reading it at page 140 (ish) – and believe me, I struggled to get that far. I gave it a good chance but it couldn’t hold my interest. It didn’t give me an insight into anything I didn’t already know or had assumed about Gypsies.


  6. Andy

    Great read, I could relate to the begining of Micky`s life to great detail. My father being a “Gorgia”would fight the Gypsy at Appleby Fair each year for money. It was back then just sport, and a quick way of my father to make money for a few weeks from a community hungry for entertainment and trothies. I was brought up in these circles and actually look back in fondness and despair.
    The guy who made the shitty comments, be ashamed of yourself! you were obviously brought up in the comfort that this very tight community did not.
    Well done Micky Walsh for sharing your life.


    1. kelly

      i agree with the fact this man shouldn’t be judged.This is how he grew-up, imagine that getting beat-up,abused,and raped as part of your education.There is closeness, as well, being part of his community.I am glad he is doing what he feels is right for him,but he must miss his ‘family’, so he’s doing it alone.I think that is more than most can say! Well wishes Mikey Walsh! Thank you for giving us a look into life!


  7. Nic

    This is the most amazing book I have ever read! Well done to you Mikey for sharing your life with us. How strong you are for coming out the other side. I wish you all the happiness you deserve.


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