Crocodile on the Carousel is a powerful and intriguing read from the first page. It tells the story of three generations of women, Cath Furnish, her daughter Marie and granddaughter Amanda, whose lives are dominated quite menacingly by a 13 metre high carousel situated in the back garden. It’s no ordinary carousel of course, with pretty candy-coloured horses with fetlocks that blow in the wind. There is a horse but it’s an injured, bloodied warhorse. Other animals on the contraption include a vulture ripping up meat for its chicks under the shadow of the Gates of Death, some goats, a lioness, a warped-looking hippopotamus named Behemoth and a giant crocodile with a hook through its mouth named Leviathan. The carousel maker was inspired by ‘The Book of Job’. Cath Furnish installed it in the back garden as a symbol of the pain in her world after suffering the loss of a child. Its presence looms over the Furnish family and contains a message; a grim reminder that life comes with suffering. Cath, Marie and Amanda have all learnt what it is to suffer and know too well, through bereavement, bullying and betrayal that happiness ends in pain.
The book is narrated by 19-year-old Amanda who looks back at her family history and tries desperately to change her fate and find love. As a reader, you immediately trust her as she relates a family saga that’s as complicated as it is outrageous.
An accomplished artist Sally Tissington is a Writer in Residence in Leamington Spa. Crocodile on the carousel is her first novel and I cannot wait to read her second book whenever it comes out. The storyline was fascinating and kept me engrossed from the start and all the way to the finish. I was eager to learn more about the Furnish females and other characters that were linked to them. Perhaps because Tissington is an artist, the imagery she conjured up to describe people, events and moods were vivid and exceptionally evocative.
Although suffering lay very much at the heart of the novel, it’s not a gloomy read at all. Rather, Tissington has crafted a rather magical read that’s humorous and stimulating. I recommend Crocodile on the Carousel to anyone, from those looking for a new book to read alone or in a book club.