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The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  254 ratings  ·  35 reviews

*BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week*

'I needed to get to the stopping places, so I needed to get on the road. It was the road where I might at last find out where I belonged.'

Damian Le Bas grew up surrounded by Gypsy history. His great-grandmother would tell him stories of her childhood in the ancient Romani language; the places her family stopped and worked, the ways they

Kindle Edition, UK edition, 320 pages
Published June 7th 2018 by Vintage Digital
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Whispering Stories
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I must confess that my knowledge of Gypsies/Romanies/Travellers was limited. Yes, they tell fortunes, they try to sell “lucky heather” and they sometimes fill laybys with large caravans, leaving behind a lot of rubbish.

As the synopsis says, Damian Le Bas has a pedigree as a true Romany despite his education at a private school and Oxford University. Who better to open up their world to us?

The Stopping Places takes the form of a road trip around the UK and France by Le Bas to find those parking
Damian Le Bas grew up around the Hampshire-Sussex border; he name-checks Petersfield on the first page, which is where my grandparents live and where I spent my summers from the age of seven onwards. Le Bas’s childhood, however, was spent selling flowers at the market there, and bombing around the countryside with various uncles and cousins, working on construction projects. He comes from a family of Travellers, or Gypsies, or Romanies—he uses the word Gypsy of himself and of people he knows, ...more
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I know little about Romany / gypsy culture and most that I hear is not good, so to come across this delightful book which explains so much and brings a real feeling of life and heritage to the subject was an amazing find. Written with a lovely personal touch and without resentment to those who make a gypsy's life difficult. I am very glad I stopped long enough to read this.
Bogi Takács
(This is an ownvoices work, before someone complains about the title *again*.) It is a literary nonfiction / memoirish book where the author revisits places his family used to use as stopping places when on the road, and other stopping places for Roma/Travellers. I have read an amount of Hungarian Romani literature, but I find it harder to find Romani authors in other languages. I was glad to read this book, and the attempt to reconstruct family lore and find ways to relate it to the present was ...more
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is hard to explain just how much I loved this book; or quite why. But I will probably go right back to the beginning in a day or two and read it again.

Damian Le Bas, brought up in the midst of his extended Romany family but with a public school education (thanks to a scholarship) and a degree from Oxford, clearly has to sometimes defend himself against suggestions, from both outside and inside the Roma community, that he has become what my mother would describe as 'neither nowt nor summat'.

Elaine Sharp
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book doesn't do any of the things you think it is going to do. It neither romanticises nor condemns the traveller way of life. Instead in reaching out to his cultural traditions , Damien Le Bas searches for his own identity in a world that has changed completely for him and many of his generation; whatever their ethnicity, displaced from their roots and living in the diverse 21st century, cosmopolitan world.

I lived next to a "stopping place". It had ceased to hold wagons or trucks over the
Damien Le Bas didn’t have what most would consider a conventional upbringing. He is a gypsy and his community have always had a strained relationship with others in the UK. He spent time with various family members travelling around the countryside, selling flowers and carrying out all sorts of odd jobs. He didn’t follow the usual path for gypsies either, winning a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital before going onto study at Oxford.

This is about his travels back through his memories to the ‘
Laur (Define Bookish)
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It seems fitting that an exploration of Romany identity should take the form of a travelogue.

As the title suggests, this is a book about the staying as much as the going. Damian Le Bas takes us on a compelling journey to a selection of Britain's Romany stopping places, weaving in rich threads of cultural insight, historical context, and his own childhood memories.

Beautiful without straying into rose-tinted territory, The Stopping Places is a book about occupying the margins; about finding a home
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
A charming enough meandering travelogue which is fine as far as it goes.

All is rather quaint and as the books becomes a plod of haphazard road trips around Britain taken over a period of time. All is a little twee and refuses steadfastly to offer much in the way of insight. The author appears happy to gloss over deeper potentially darker issue. I would have been fascinated to hear about his take on how Gypsies have been stereotyped in popular British culture for instance.
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
Absolutely loved this book by @damianlebas about his quest to explore traditional stopping places. But really it is so much more than that. Loved finding out more about the history and culture and some of his Nan’s sayings made it into my journal, because it is rather sage advice. Also it made me realise how little I actually know about Travellers and Roma. I hope he writes another book! Longlisted for the #jhalakprize and I very much hope it will be on the shortlist which should be announced ...more
Lucy H
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
This is a fascinating look at the life of a Gypsy in the twenty first century, and what it means to be a travelling man. The author expresses anxiety and uncertainty about the place he occupies, never feeling entirely secure in the Gypsy community, and never quite fitting into the non-Gypsy world because of his heritage. He has had an unusual start to his life, with a scholarship to boarding school and then Oxford University, before returning to his family on their land.

His decision to take to
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: travelogue, memoir
Came across the book when I heard the author in a panel with Arundhati Roy. Seemed in line with some of the topics I’ve been interested in lately: sense of place, spatial relationships, cultural landscapes, a little bit of linguistic history, and oral histories. It’s not bad, but definitely very self-reflective and doesn’t really get into other people’s heads as well as the author’s. If it sounds mildly intriguing for whatever reason, it’s worth reading.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
So torn about this book. On the one hand, it's a window into a world that almost no books I know cover, a recollection of the author's unusual upbringing, and a reconciliation on what it means to be an outsider.

On the other, the author is working out some issues in a haphazard way that makes me think this book should be a diary rather than meant for external consumption - there is no start and end - even a personal story should have a narrative. The presence of the author's wife was strange-
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
From The Reading Hobbit

I've always been interested in Traveler culture, so when I came across this book I knew I just had to read it. As its written by someone from the travelers community, I decided that this would be a good place to start, and man did I love this book.

It's not so much about Traveler culture, it's not a tour guide-esque type of book telling endlessly about what is, in essence, quite an ungraspable thing (especially since apparently Traveler culture is as diverse as its
Neil Mach
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, slightly removed, account of gypsy life from a competent author who has a desire to get to the bottom of some of the mysteries of his tribe. He admits he's not "kaulo ratti" — although he can trace his Gypsy family history back at least 6 generations, he has learnt the gypsy ways, especially the Romanipen, but he chose to leave the community for an education. This book is a "road trip" around the hidden atchin tans — the romani stopping places — of Britain... and also an insight ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
We're part way through a tour of the UK in books and, although this was a break from that, it's magical the way our 'journey' has been mirrored in Stopping Places. It's full of top-notch travel writing, but the strongest themes are those of identity - particularly identity in a landscape. Also, unlike so many travelogues, it is free from the hypocrisy you see in people 'going back to nature' or extolling a certain lifestyle whilst conveniently forgetting that not everyone can fund said lifestyle ...more
Amy Herbert
Aug 24, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

'I needed to get to the stopping places, so I needed to get on the road. It was the road where I might at last find out where I belonged.'

I enjoyed this journey into a culture I knew nearly nothing about, the Travellers of Britain, with Damian Le Bas, a native of the community in search of his true identity. The language is rich and the stories enjoyable. Perfect for this cold night.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I didn't know what stars to put on this, three seems a bit miserly, because there was some fascinating stuff in there, and some beautiful writing. It didn't pull me in, though, even though I learned a lot. Maybe it's that the travelogue parts (lovely) and the straight history (a bit "look how much I've found out and I'm going to repeat it all") weren't really interwoven well enough to keep my interest in the history parts.
Jo Leadbetter
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. I bought it with a gift voucher some months ago and thought it would be an interesting read - a bit like an A-Z of camping places - but it is a wonderful traverse of the UK and the meditations of a man making the journey and working out who and what he is. I loved his transition from being of this world to one where time and distance become so much less relevant.
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
My great Nan was a Romany from East Anglia but I’ve struggled to find anything to read about this part of my heritage that was recent, UK focused and not a dry academic text. This beautifully written book not only met this criteria but took me on a journey both round Europe, round modern Romany culture and round our own deep rooted and confused sense of self and of other.
Christine Best
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is part a history of the Romany in Britain, partly a travelogue and partly a memoir. Its author has spent his life half in and half out of the culture and his frankness makes for a fascinating read. I guarantee you will learn a lot from reading this.
Karin Jenkins
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a really interesting nonfiction tale looking at Gypsy life in Britain by following the author ( who is half Romany) as he spent a year living mostly in a transit van staying at the traditional stopping places. Lots of interesting issues to ponder.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lyrical search for the author’s identity, rooted firmly in the natural landscape of Britain, the weather and the atchin tans. I enjoyed going along on the journey, confirming understanding, recognising and finding out so much on the way.
Chloe Fleming-Loach
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this book from start to finish. Was interesting to join him in a personal journey both in the physical and the cultural. Factual, insightful and with the descriptive tapestry running through the story telling.
T P Kennedy
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Very nice little book. This is an engaging travelogue/exploration of the author's gypsy identity. It's episodic and partial. It makes for an engaging summer read.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
This book can't decide what it is. It's reminiscent of Naipaul's "An Area Of Darkness," yet lacks something of the dislocation for which it's always searching but can't seem to find.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging, thought-provoking memoir cum travelogue. Was looking forward to reading this after hearing the author on the radio earlier this year and it more than lived up to expectations.
Lauren Dowding
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really great book! Listened to it in one day whilst painting the inside of my boat. A recommended read to anybody to has an interest in Gypsy culture!
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Existentialist angst interwoven with linguistic and cultural insights on a bed of beautiful depictions of the British countryside
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