The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow

Courtesy Penguin

This
coming-of-age novel set against the harsh backdrop of the Western Australian
landscape has become a modern classic for Randolph Stow.

When
Stow passed away at the age of 74 in England on 29 May 2010, he had spent more
than 40 years out of the country, but West Australian’s still mourned the loss
of one of their own.
Stow
was the second-ever winner of Australia’s prestigious Miles Franklin Literary
Award in 1958 for his novel To the
Islands
, but is perhaps better known for this semi-autobiographical novel
published in 1965.
The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea
The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea tells the story of six-year-old Rob Coram who lives
in the town of Geraldton and divides his time between the sheep stations owned
by his extended family and hanging out at the beach and swimming in the Indian
Ocean.
The
story is of a simple childhood in a small coastal town and told through the
eyes of Rob, it is easy to get swept up in the fights will his younger sister
Nan, his desire to swim to the merry-go-round in the sea (a ship wreck) and his
non comprehension of a war that is going on far to the north.
But
growing up can be complex, and to do so in a small and isolated community where
the physical landscape is harsh and unforgiving comes with its own
complications.
Rob’s
hero is his cousin Rick who at 21 leaves to join the war efforts in Asia.  The book is actually divided up into two
parts – Rick Away 1941-1945 and Rick Home 1945-1949. 
It
is in the latter half of the book that the implications of the war on both
their lives hits home. In these eight years the world changes for both Rob and
Rick and there is no going back.
Growing
up means questioning what is around you and what people tell you. It is when
Rob finally swims to his merry-go-round and realises what it is that as a
reader we appreciate the loss of youth.
About Randolph Stow
Julian
Randolph Stow was born in Geraldton in 1935 and it was here amongst the town,
the coast and the surrounding sheep stations that he set the novel The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea. Geraldton
is located on the mid-west coast of Western Australia about 420km north of the
capital city Perth.
Today
the city of Geraldton-Greenough still celebrates the writer’s life with an
annual literary competition for school students.
Stow
had two of his eight novels published when he was still a young man and an
undergraduate at the University of Western Australia.
The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow (Penguin Books, 2008, ISBN:
9780-143-180-074, 400 pages.)
My rating: ★★★★

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