Crocodile on the Carousel by Sally Tissington
|Crocodile on the Carousel by Sally Tissington|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A novel that includes comedy and romance but isn't a rom-com, features a dysfunctional family but isn't an introverted study, mentions Job but isn't religious. So what is it? You decide; it's a decision you'll enjoy making.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: October 2012|
|Publisher: G-Press Fiction|
|External links: Author's website|
Cath Furnish's life has been so marked out by suffering to such an extent that she believes that's what life's about. Despite being married to Bill, raising her granddaughter Amanda and her daughter Marie being TV's 'Happy Lady', Cath is attracted to the biblical book of Job, a co-sufferer in her eyes. She's even bought a grotesque carousel for the back garden incorporating such jolly figures as a crocodile, a bleeding horse and the gates of death because it reminds her of him. As much as Amanda loves her grandmother, she doesn't want to continue living like this and so sets herself a mission. Despite opposition she will disprove her upbringing and find love and happiness, so help her.
For accomplished artist and 'writer in residence' Sally Tissington's a debut novel liberally sprinkled with quirk and not toeing the line of the humdrum has certainly paid off for her as we encounter writing ladened with robust characters and questions.
We're treated to the family history starting from Cath's youth but, as soon as she's old enough to develop opinions, the story drifts towards the viewpoint of Amanda. Being raised by a person who is almost deaf to the call of happiness (even ignoring the beautiful butterflies on the wing in order to point to a pile of dead ones) gives the lass an easy target when it comes to teenage rebellion. She merely has to throw herself, 18 year old Lolita styley at the new local pub manager and see what happens.
Amanda's feisty and, like any teenager, views others through her limited experience, translating their actions as what she thinks they could mean. For instance her neighbour, Susan Rink, (business woman with an odd idea of animal husbandry) doesn't come with any past history or justification for her actions; she's just as Amanda shows her to us, predatory and past it. Is Susan really not as nice to teen Amanda as she was to her as a child? Does teenaged Amanda see middle-aged Susan as the rival she never was before rather than vice versa? We're invited to decide for ourselves as Amanda's strategies fall into place and she embarks on a game with rules she's too inexperienced to comprehend.
Most of the men (Amanda's biological grandfather and shadow in Cath's past) drift along, propelled by the actions of others. Amanda's biological father weakly obeys his father, pub manager Michael is dominated by his nether regions (ok, they're not strictly speaking a 'character', but near enough) and then there's Cath's Bill. He's almost invisible beneath Cath's thumb, shocked at how much she's changed since his unilaterally romantic proposal. This is partly to do with the local community's reaction to her but he still seems to endure a loveless marriage passively.
Apart from meandering in a couple of places (a mild gripe rather than a serious concern), the story rattles through to a three pronged climax. Two events become predictable before they occur but that doesn’t detract from their thrall. The third comes out of the blue and may even elicit a guilty silent cheer that goes nicely with the smirks that we collect on the way (e.g. Cath's cantankerous nature and that sentence about Susan's high heels).
It's interesting that, despite it containing a ton of suffering, the book of Job is actually about something else – retaining faith during bad times. Perhaps this is the key and, in the same way that Cath misunderstands Job she also misunderstands the purpose of life. Does she find the future happiness that her idol Job finds at the end of his book? I'll leave that with you to discover. As for Sally Tissington, she's already been likened to Kate Atkinson so that's one future that's deservedly assured.
A special thank you to G-Press Fiction for sending us a copy of this book for review.
If you've enjoyed this, perhaps you'd like to see if the comparisons are accurate and try Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum.
You can read more book reviews or buy Crocodile on the Carousel by Sally Tissington at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Crocodile on the Carousel by Sally Tissington at Amazon.com.
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