Tuesday, 6 August 2019
FOR MARITSA, WITH LOVE by Enid Richemont. Reviewed by Ann Turnbull
I loved this story. Gypsy girl Maritsa, nearly thirteen - a bright, streetwise child - separates herself from the other youngsters in her family and spends a few days alone in Paris just before Christmas, living in the Metro subways. She's enchanted by the sparkling, brightly-lit city with its buskers and street traders and stalls selling freshly-made pancakes.
Maritsa, with her skilled patter and thieving ways, is cunning and knows how to manipulate people, but she comes from a close-knit community and she's very aware of others around her on the margins of society. Instinctively kind and caring, she makes friends. One of these is Rose, a cantankerous old woman - a former school teacher fallen on hard times - who contributes much to the pleasure of this story. She and Maritsa fulfil deep emotional needs in each other.
But the glittering city has a dark underside, and Maritsa is a vulnerable young girl. It soon becomes clear that she is drifting into danger, lured by promises of a screen test from a sinister couple who befriend her. And there are others, also watching and following her. All these details are woven into the apparently random events of Maritsa's few days in Paris. In the climax the whole truth is revealed - and this reader didn't see it coming.
This is a story that pulls no punches. It's grim in places. But we also see Paris through the eyes of the young girl with her love of bright colours, twinkling lights and sugary food - a child who revels in making new friends and is eager to learn. The writing sparkles with life and colour - and the ending is satisfying.
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