Although I often write briefly here about books which have just arrived to join the Himalayan tbr piles, those are usually very short introductions to flag up what's new, and rarely will I have actually begun to read them. While that's fine as far as it goes, I'm conscious that it might be preferable to set down not only the bare bones of the story and a line or two from a review or a puff from the cover, but also some idea of what the book is like.
I thought I'd start that today with the most recent arrival, giving you some impressions gleaned from the first chapter.
The Roundabout Man by Clare Morrall*:
The gist - "He doesn't look like a tramp, yet he lives on a roundabout in a caravan and survives on the leftovers from a nearby motorway service station. He calls himself Quinn, the name of a boy in a world-famous series of children's books, but he's nearer retirement than childhood. What he hopes no one will discover is that he's the real Quinn, immortalised as a child by his mother in her entrancing tales about a little boy's adventures with his triplet sisters. It is this inheritance he has successfully run away from - until now. When Quinn's reclusive existence is invaded, he is forced to face his past, and the uncomfortable truths and secrets it contains about himself, his sisters and, most of all, his mother."
That's a strong-sounding background; shades of House of Silence?
The opening passage - "I exist in the eye of the storm, the calm in the centre of a perpetual hurricane of cars and lorries heading for the M6, the north and Scotland, or south to Penzance and Land's End. I sometimes wonder if they don't go on the motorway at all, that I hear the same vehicles circling endlessly, a kind of multiple Flying Dutchman, doomed to travel for ever. I don't regret for one minute that I am no longer one of them.
"I call my caravan Dunromin, in the solid tradition of all those semi-detached streets that form the vertebrae of the country, because that's exatcly what I've done. Stopped roaming. I've anchored myself in the middle of one of the few patches of land where no one goes, among well-established birches, ashes, sycamores, surrounded myself with nettles and claimed sanctuary...."
The first chapter is an intriguing beginning in which Quinn Smith is surprised early one morning by the arrival on his roundabout of Lorna Steadman, a junior reporter for a local newspaper. She's there to write an article for a series on unususal people and has heard about this man who apparently used to be a pilot and now lives an unconventional existence, without money, close to a motorway service station, but no one knows Quinn's true identity, and when Lorna finds in his caravan a very familiar picture, one which almost every child in the land would recognise from the bestselling children's book The Triplets and Quinn, her subject claims it's a print he found in a bin and took because he liked it - in fact it's the original ... "It's delicately drawn, washed with watercolour, a nostalgic image of childhood. There's a signature in the bottom right corner: Larissa Smith."
With references and flashbacks to Quinn's former life with his mother and sisters in contrast to his solitary, scavenging present and now this intrusion from a well-meaning stranger, and all of it making for a promising beginning, am I inclined to read on? Yes, I am!
*I haven't read any of Clare's books, though she is very well known for the Booker-shortlisted Astonishing Splashes Of Colour in particular.
By the way, cover illustration is by Tom Berry.