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Family Roundabout

by Richmal Crompton
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23 24 25

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The Far Cry
A Well Full of Leaves
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ISBN 9781903155134

Richmal Crompton is famous for being the author of the William books, which sold over 8 million copies in her lifetime, but she also wrote forty novels for adults, the best of which is, in our view, Family Roundabout, a 1948 book about the life of two families during the inter-war years.

Family Roundabout centres on two matriarchs, around whom their two families spin. One is dreamy, laissez-faire, kindly and bookish; the other is controlling, managerial, efficient and energetic. 'Mrs Fowler's hands-off approach is on the face of it more appealing that Mrs Willoughby's repressive autocracy,' writes Juliet Aykroyd in her Preface, 'but in the end we are left pondering, What is a successful mother, or, come to think of it, a successful child?'

The two women try hard, but inevitably the family roundabout goes round and round, the riders go up and down, and both must accept their children as they really are, rather than as they would like them to be; for all their efforts, whether misplaced or well-meaning, as it used to say above nursery doors - 'tout laisse, tout casse, tout passe'. This is quite a sardonic book, certainly it is not anodyne, and the reader is led to conclude that neither Mrs Fowler nor Mrs Willoughby have spun the roundabout quite as they should. 


An example of 1940s 'peasant-art' style, the fabric shows prancing roundabout horses on a striped background; the faded pink is typical of the period (Mrs Fowler, one of the matriarchs, is especially fond of her 'faded cretonnes').

Picture Caption

Detail from a 1928 Southern Electric Railway poster 'Kentish Hills & Surrey Dales' by Ethelbert White

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Categories: Childhood Family Mothers Widows

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