Review: The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea

The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea
The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

400 pages just flew by. It really did not feel like I’ve read 400 pages at all, maybe 200 pages at most! It’s definitely not Large Print and it’s regular size fonts (10 or 11). It’s a sign that I was completely taken in.

Rob Coram is 6 years old at the beginning of the book saying goodbye to an older cousin (Rick Malpestead, 20) who’s going to war. The rest of the first part of the book dealt with Rob’s boyhood in Geraldton and surrounding areas (even though they were evacuated at some point, it was not particularly far by today’s measurement) at a time of war and in the marked absence of Rick. What was life like for a growing boy in Geraldton, Australia in the 1940s? Did the faraway war affected their lives and how?

Whilst the book’s main focus is Rob, there were snippets of Rick where we, as readers, were given the privilege of peeking into Rick & parts of his life. Without these snippets, I don’t think feel much sympathy for Rick even though he, definitely, deserves it.

The story is mainly told from Rob’s view but sometimes, Rob was referred to as ‘the boy’ and it happens without warning, so it’s a little disconcerting but I’ve learnt to live with it. I loved the large family which seem to be around him nearly all the time and his relationship with his mother…

’I do so remember,’ said the boy.
‘Don’t contradict,’ said his mother. And he shut up. When she said ‘don’t contradict’, she was dangerous.

There is an atmosphere of nostalgia throughout the story, like the author was remembering his childhood (Stow was, indeed, born in Geraldton in 1935). The reminiscent air was just so strong that I was completely drawn to wanting to visit Geraldton…

Summer meant the sea, everyday the sea. It meant sunburn, and backs becoming a mass of freckles, and the walk to the sea over hot roads, jumping from shadow to shadow… The moods and colours of the sea were always changing: on some days still and burning blue, on others grey-green and swelling…

I’ll close with my Favourite moment (keep in mind: boys approx. 8 or 9 years old):

’I wonder what I’m going to be when I grow up,’ Rob asked himself.
‘Well, not a film star,’ Mike said. ‘And not an all-in wrestler. Why don’t you be a drunk? You don’t need any talents for that.’
‘It’s got to be something in your blood,’ Rob said. It was his view that all history was a matter of blood.
‘That’s a lot of bullshit,’ Mike said. ‘Hell, Australia was built by people who didn’t know who their grandparents were. You can be anything you want to be, and you ought to be what you want to be, not what your grandpa was.’
‘Well, what are you going to be?’ Rob demanded… ‘A drunk,’ said Mike. ‘I haven’t got any talents.’

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