This is a heart-breaking book. Not because it deals with unrequited love, though that is an element in the story, but because Frankie is so utterly let down by everyone around him, especially his own mother. Once he realizes that he cannot accept the moral values by which she lives, he is left emotionally, if not quite actually, homeless.
It all starts because some Romanian gypsies arrive at Frankie's gently rotting block of council flats in Dover. From his balcony Frankie spots a girl in red. She has long, pale plaits and is wearing bare feet and flip-flops in the winter evening. He is captivated, and in his gentle, not very incisive way, he speculates about her feelings on arriving in such an unwelcoming place:
Then I notice that she has no shoes on, just flip-flops. Fancy wearing those in all this weather: it's tipping down. My sleeves are soaked and I feel chilly, but she's bare footed, almost. I can hear the rain drumming on the tops of the cars and see it streaking across the strengthening orange glow of the sodium street lights. Doesn't she feel the cold? Or is she used to it, being foreign? If that's what she is.
Then she staggers, stumbles nearly, and something swings free. At first I think it's ropes, or some daft thing like that, around her neck. It's clear that she's a bit odd, not to be wearing her shoes on a day like this, and in that skirt, so she could have ropes round her neck, couldn't she? Now I see that it's not rope, it's her hair. It's plaits. Her pale hair is plaited into two long tails that swing down way below her waist. I've never seen anything like this before, or only on telly or in books. So much hair ...
The local residents meet the gypsies with hostility. Opposition swells, and at a public meeting Frankie is appalled to see his mother leading the protest against the gypsies:
I don't say a thing. Not a single word. I just hug the fish and chips tighter and know that I want to escape, or die, whichever is quicker. I don't want anyone to see me either, especially not Liz Quiggley and her boys. Or Mum. Or Mrs Morris. In fact, I don't want to see anyone, ever again. I hate stuff like this. I can't imagine why they made me come to this stupid meeting. Why can't people just leave me alone?
Frankie is self-effacing. It is in his nature to keep his opinions to himself, which is perhaps why his own motives are so misunderstood by those around him. It is assumed that he shares the views of his mother.
Emilia, the girl in red, joins his class at school, and Frankie is desperate to be her friend, but in his clumsy and ineffectual way he only succeeds in frightening her. He is accused of racial prejudice and ostracized by everyone at the school, children, teachers and parents alike, until, slowly and painfully, he can make his position clear.
There's a lot in this book. Themes of racial prejudice, refugees and gypsies, broken families, obsession and unrequited love, friendship, love and betrayal. And it is all worked into a deceptively simple storyline. I found it moving and memorable.
Mike Liose, boy, age 13, from London, United Kingdom, on 11th October 2005. Rating: 10/10
I think this was an amazing book, one of the best i have ever read, as we all know about love and the hard times it brings. I would recommend this book to anyone, but mainly boys, because they know how Frankie feels (seeing as hes a boy). We had to read this book at school, and at first i thought it was a bit odd, but then i got into it and just couldn't put it down!! I think the description is AMAZING! I could imagine the rotting, dirty flats and the slimy, greening rails all in the tinyest deatail!! I would like to thank the people who made up this website because now people can see what people think of this book, and i would like to thank Amelia, Flo, Floz and of course Hana for telling me what a wonderful book it is and for making me read on, even when i didnt like the begining.
Tami, girl, age 13, from United Kingdom, on 20th April 2005. Rating: 8/10
This is a must read book for anyone
Ali, girl, age 12, from United Kingdom, on 17th March 2005. Rating:
It is a very interesting book and really composes to daily life and genrel problems
If you want to buy Girl in Red by Gaye Hicyilmaz and help readingmatters, please use these links
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Gaye Hicyilmaz has written other books. You could look at:
If you enjoy this book, Bernard Ashley has written a story about a refugee arriving in the UK:
Also, Elizabeth Laird:
You might enjoy this book by June Oldham:
Or possibly this one by Adele Geras: