Having never read any of Clare Morrall’s writing, I have to admit to my initial attraction to this book being more a result of the copper embellished cover than the author’s name. In future though her name alone will be enough.
Quinn is a homeless man who lives in a caravan parked in the middle of a motorway roundabout and lives by scavenging left over food from a nearby service station. Though this probably wouldn’t be most people’s ideal existence, this is the best way he knows of escaping from the isolating legacy of being semi-fictionalised with his three sisters, the triplets, in his mother’s books for children. Quinn is approaching happy with this way of life, until a pushy journalist comes along asking questions.
The Roundabout Man is a really clever fusion of urban legend, news story and popular history. I’m sure everyone has heard stories suggesting that a local tramp is a secret millionaire or about Enid Blyton’s distance from her own daughters. Many of us will have watched Finding Neverland and heard of the mixed emotions of the Llywelyn-Davies boys at the notoriety that inspiring the play achieved. Even a news story from a few years ago about a farmer who built a castle without planning permission and hid it behind straw bales gets included. Morrall fuses these varied influences fluidly to create an interesting and unique fiction which doesn’t feel forced.
For me, the examination of Quinn’s relationship with his mother was the most interesting aspect of this book. Stories about good mothers are ten a penny and there are plenty of stories about bad mothers out there as well, but I often find these lapse into evil stepmother stereotype or worse into child abuse memoir type stories. I don’t know about you but neither of these appeals to me very much. This relationship is shadowy, but has a certain credibility, despite being a work of fiction.
An unusual and enjoyable read, I will hunt down her other book soon.