Go mbeannai Dia duit.

About Me

My photo
Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Monday, January 30, 2012


Nobody wanted to be a Pommy. Pommies might be gallant in wartime, but they had an unfortunate ancestry. They were descended from all the people who had declined to found America and Canada and South Africa and New Zealand and Australia ~R. Stowe

Some time in the next few days Star & I resume school.  Her last year, a last chance to share & so I have been scanning my bookshelves to see what is there that I just know I am going to love reading aloud to her & that I hope Star will love as much as I do. I have picked Randolph Stowe's The Merry~go~Round in the Sea.

Do you know this book?  I have owed a copy for years & periodically I reread it for the pure pleasure of the language used by someone who knows how to use English.  It is a most beautiful book ~ but then Stowe is a published poet as well as a novelist.

I have heard this book described as a *coming of age* story ~ which does not in the least do it justice!  It is far more than that.  It is one of the most evocative books I have ever read ~ partly, I suspect, because my experience of family was very similar.  I came at the tail end of one generation yet was closer in age to my cousins of the next generation, crossing boundaries & experiencing both the closeness & the inevitable pulling away, the history & stories & clannishness of a people who are secure in who they are, where they have come from & what they believe.  For a child it is mesmerizing & the deep core stability generates a feeling of strength,  invincibility & security.  Stowe captures this in his central character, 6 year old Rob.

Rob's world is idyllic & part of Stowe's magic is his ability to capture the sights & sounds & smells so richly that one can read his words with the sense that one could find their way blind~fold through this world.  Inevitably the world as Rob thinks it is is revealed to be something else entirely.  Beyond Geralton & the family station the Second World War rages.  It consumes Rob's favourite cousin, Rick, unravelling everything Rob once believed until, like the merry~go~round in the sea, the cruel light of day reveals an uglier, less kind world that had always existed, lovingly hidden by the blight of family loyality.

One of Stowe's strengths is his ability to show things as they are without preaching.  Thus Rick's struggle to fit back into an Australia that was determinedly provincial, narrow~minded, bigoted & claustrophobic is unsentimental; Rob is sentimental.  It is he who clings to a vision of a world that only ever really existed in his own mind but oh! it is a beautiful world!

 Knowing my Star she will hate everything about this book but it's one of those books everyone should have read at least once in their lifetime ~ like To kill a Mockingbird.  Some books are just too good not to share.


Jeanne said...

Oh yes! What age range, my learned
Iibrarian friend?

Ganeida said...

Jeanne: you would love this book! It isn't for junior readers, high school & up. There is some pretty mild swearing very occasionaly [from memory], some pretty ugly racial predjudice by modern standards but true to the time frame, but has a most woderful period feel to it! It really is a book to be savoured slowly!

Jeanne said...

Thanks. I'll look out for it.