To be honest, it wasn’t so much the blurb as the fact the book was a hardback that attracted me to ‘The Roundabout Man.’ Not a massive selling point to start off, I realise. But hardbacks are always so much more fun to read; they make me feel like I’m reading a proper book. I also wanted an author I hadn’t heard of- not a classic, or the ‘in’ book of the moment. I wanted something simple, something easy to read around a hectic schedule. This fitted the bill perfectly.
With perhaps an uninspiring title, seemingly leaving little to the imagination, I didn’t build up much hope. But by Chapter two, author Clare Morrall had painted such a simple, humble character in Quinn, the main protagonist that I couldn’t help but be engrossed. I wanted to know everything him, I wanted to understand why he lived on a roundabout, and why can’t we all lead the simple life that he did without material possessions and other people dictating our every move.
Because that’s one message underlying in the simplicity of this story- that and a voyage of personal discovery.
Quinn appeared to have had the ideal childhood; supportive, loving parents and triplet sisters with whom he shares many an adventure in their Arts and Crafts home. Except this is all scripted; all played out in his mother’s famous book series and in reality… well, Quinn doesn’t really know his reality. All he remembers is a mother who wouldn’t hug him and sisters who dressed him up like a girl despite his constant refusal. Fed up of this world created for him and of his fantasied identity, he searches for an escape- which he finds on a roundabout before a major motorway in his ex-fiancée’s caravan. Here he never has to explain who he is, because there’s no-one to explain it to.
When thieves break into his caravan however, Quinn is forced to face the people again and the uncomfortable truths and secrets of his past- and perhaps why the best memories of his childhood only appear in novels.
Powerful in its own subtle way, Morrall creates a clever and engrossing portrayal of the ups and downs of a life outside the norm. With flashbacks to childhood memories, the reader is offered an emotive and gripping explanation to this simple man’s past and its effect on his future. So fantastically imagined, the book plays out like a documentary and in ‘meeting’ Quinn, you feel a tug on your heartstrings for his circumstances and a desperate urge to find out about his life.
I guess one crucial message gleamed from the characters in ‘The Roundabout Man’ is don’t judge a book by its cover- and in my case, this is totally literal. There’s no doubting this is a proper story, with a simple and heart-warming narrative. I’d pick this up even in paperback now, for sure.