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Family Roundabout
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 1 March 2009
Reading this novel by Richmal Crompton was a bit like reading a `William' story from the adults' point of views. Here too we have a sleepy interwar village with old fashioned shops, the county family and the nouveau riche family, teas and tennis parties. And you get similar character types - bossy young women, lovelorn young men, redoubtable elderly ladies, a solitary writer living in a cottage and a young wannabe socialist whose greatest act of rebellion is to wear orange socks. There are also children of course - whether engagingly rebellious or unattractively smug - but these remain in the background throughout.

The story is very absorbing, the characters are convincing and quite subtly drawn although we are never invited to delve too deeply into their inner lives, and, even though the subject matter includes adultery, death and disappointments of all kinds, the style is often very witty. Crompton's portrait of the self-indulgent, second rate novelist Arnold Palmer is particularly effective. `Mr Palmer spent a lot of time and thought impressing his modesty on people'. I do recommend `Family Roundabout', but if you want a 5* star novel along rather similar lines try Dorothy Whipple's wonderful `They Were Sisters'.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Richmal Crompton is one of the great publishing discoveries in a long time. Her William books are enjoyable and lastingly popular, but this book...
And, so you see, I am speechless. From the opening page, on which the 'central character' (if there is only one) Millicent Dorrington reveals how she behaved less intelligent than she was to please her husband, calling her witty self 'Milly' and her dutiful self 'Millicent,' I was hooked. Richmal has the ability to create a character in an amazingly brief number of words - and each character, from the matriachal but insecure Mrs. Willoughby to the eminent author-seducer, is perfectly and addictively drawn.
What could have been a depressing book, given its depiction of families separating and becoming lonely, is in fact extremely funny much of the time. Crompton uses the wit so well known from the pages of William (like all good childrens books, wasted on children) to both acerbic and fond affect within the pages of this, one of my favourite novels.
I can't recommend Richmal Crompton in general, and this book in particular, strongly enough.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 24 April 2001
This is the story of two famillies, the Willoughbys and the Fowlers. Each is headed by a woman (the fathers are conveniently dead before the story begins). Mrs Fowler is initially the more attractive character, kind, bookish, understanding, while Mrs Willoughby rules her family with a will of iron. The novel spans nearly twenty years in the lives of these two famillies, brought together initially by the marriage of Max Willoughby to Helen Fowler. The mothers present two opposing methods of nurturing their children, but by the end of the novel, it's difficult to say who is the more successful mother. As Mrs Fowler says at one point, maybe she needed a bit more of Mrs Willoughby in her, and maybe Mrs Willoughby needed a little of her. As well as being a fascinating picture of family life,the novel is also very funny. Mrs Willoughby's control over her family is evident in everything they do (the episode of the black and pink versus the green mat is typical)until the day when she is defied by one of her grandchildren, and the whole edifice begins to crumble. Mrs Fowler seems unable to really help and advise her children. She doesn't interfere and is always supportive, but this hasn't made them happy. The Roundabout of the title is an appropriate image as the characters' fortunes change. Round and round and up and down they go, but knowing when to jump off the roundabout is the important thing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Until I read 'Family Roundabout' I was only familiar with Richmal Crompton through her William Brown children's stories. This latest read was a revelation - what an accomplished novelist! The novel published in 1948 just after the Second World War centres around two families - the Fowlers and the Willoughbys. The two family matriarchs are as different as chalk and cheese in the way the seek to guide their offspring. One takes the gentle approach, the other is more forceful and donimant in her dealings with her family. As the story unfolds it becomes plain that whichever their approach they have to accept their offspring as they are. No matter what happens we see that regardless of the consequences children and parents must show respect for each other, and in the end in order to find happiness they will either have to jump off the roundabout of their own accord or allow themselves to be pushed off and find a better life. A great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2012
What a find this book is. I loved listening to the Just William stories with my sons and came across this book through a very literary blogger.

It is a witty description of the interwoven lives of two very English families of a certain type and class between the World Wars.

Not a word is wasted, and although there are several sad events during the novel, it is witty and thought provoking throughout. Just a pity that not many of Richmal Crompton's fiction intended for adults is still in print.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2013
The small village of Hurstmede has two leading families, the established Fowlers of Langley Place and the nouveau riche Willoughby's. Family Roundabout follows the fortunes of the members of these families as they combine and conflict with each other. Crompton derives rich humour from the opposing matriarchs, the quietly anarchic Mrs Fowler and the hawkish, controlling Mrs Willoughby. There's an affection for the quirks and absurdities of the families. Crompton does not always take the easy path however - some characters' mistakes are irrecoverable and some relationships unmendable.

Written post-war and set from 1920 up to the mid-30s, there is a element of nostalgia in the village streets with its carts and smithy, and there's a poignancy in the light, unknowing references to news from Europe. Having become attached to the young men and women of Hurstmede, the reader leaves the book with the very uncomfortable knowledge of what they still have to face.

Reading this made me wonder why Richmal Crompton wasn't the Maeve Binchy of her day... perhaps the shadow of William Brown loomed just too large.
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on 25 August 2014
I loved this book, pure escapisp, similar to The Cazelet series all in one volume
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