The intriguing title of The Roundabout Man by Clare Morrall was the reason I chose to read this book. The actual ‘Roundabout Man’ of the story is a man named Quinn , who lives in a caravan in the middle of a traffic roundabout. The roundabout is so big that, Quinn’s caravan is hidden from the passing traffic by trees and bushes.
Quinn, who is in his 60’s, has lived without money, foraging for food from traveller’s leftovers at a nearby service station and asking strangers at a local laundromat to wash his clothes with their loads for many years.
Quinn was the child of a famous author, whose books for children were on a par with Enid Blyton’s popularity. He and his sisters were neglected emotionally by their mother, who was happier living in the world of the stories she created. Unfortunately though for Quinn and his sisters, who were triplets, the characters in their mother’s books were based on them, and Quinn and his sisters struggled during their childhood to create identities of their own.
Quinn’s peaceful life at the roundabout came to an end when a young journalist writes a story about his life, after he was mugged and left with serious injuries by a group of teenagers who had read about Quinn in a newspaper.
Happily, the staff from the nearby service station took care of Quinn during his recuperation. He got to know their stories, and shared his own, although most people didn’t believe, at least at first, that he was the real Quinn from the famous stories. Eventually Quinn faced his emotional issues and in doing so, re-entered the world of people.
As I child, I would have quite liked to have been Enid Blyton’s child, and had adventures with the Famous Five, or midnight feasts at boarding school with the children in The Naughtiest Girl in the School or run away with Fenella and the others from Mr Galliano’s Circus. I suspect that Enid Blyton’s children would have happily changed places with me though, and enjoyed having their mother all to themselves.
The idea of living on a roundabout in relative peace and quiet is also strangely appealing, and I enjoyed reading about Quinn’s childhood, but I kept expecting more to happen in the story than what actually did. I am half-heartedly recommending The Roundabout Man because the idea is clever, and because of my fondness for Enid Blyton’s stories, but wanted more from the book and wouldn’t be surprised to learn other readers felt the same.