I read the republished version. The above is a cover of a prior print. Penguin New Zealand describes it: “…what many regard as his finest work“. (Two days after Stow’s death in 2010, The Australian published an obituary). It was a book that I went back searching for… and I was glad to have found it. (Unexpectedly, Singapore was mentioned several times in the novel. It alluded to Changi ‘university’ too – some Prisoners of War had taken to providing some education for the inmates under the Japanese Occupation).
Through the story, you were (eventually) transported back to pre-World War Two Australia. The sights and the sounds… It is part autobiography, thus on hindsight, it could explain why he went back to the United Kingdom.
Family was a very big part of the story. This contradicts the general view that Caucasians are mostly individualists. Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems quite a few women stay home to look after their children. The other thing for me was that some verses were quite magical. (Stow wrote poems as well…) There was another hilarious portion where (I believe) Didi, the cousin of central figure Robert (Rob) Coram yearned to be more than human – she yearned to be a horse!
I have not quite figured it out yet, but perhaps the title is one big allegory referring to Australia itself as the merry-go-round in the sea…
Jacinta Halloran. (26 Jul 2016). The nostalgia of place, the treachery of time: Randolph Stow’s The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea. https://bibliotherapyaustralia.com.au/2016/07/26/the-nostalgia-of-place-the-treachery-of-time-randolph-stows-the-merry-go-round-in-the-sea/. Bibliotherapy Australia.