Good Reading : October 2009
OCTOBER 2009 ı goodreading 27 world. Like most utopian dreams, the shipwreck didn't last.The beach has been redeveloped and the wreck is gone. The second merry-go-round is the one that Rob rides in the opening chapter of the novel. When I was in Geraldton, children were playing on the mer ry- go-round, beneath a spreading Moreton Bay fig tree alongside th old two-storey library building. The scene was movingly evocative of the book, but some things have changed. The mer ry-go-round is a replica of the one in the novel, which had already fallen into disrepair during the closing chapters. The library is the original building with its verandahs, but it is now a derelict structure sur rounded by fencing and defaced with graffiti. However, this feels oddly appropriate, since it mirrors the gradual erosion of the youthful dreams of Rob and Rick. There is still a lot to see in and around Geraldton that is reminiscent of Randolph Stow and his classic novel.You can walk along Gregory Street, where Stow lived and admire the old-style houses. And you can look at Geraldton Primary School, which both Stow and his fictional hero Rob attended. Although the jetty that Rob used to swim from is now gone, you can see a photo of it in the Wester n Australian Museum, Geraldton, along with displays from the wreck of the Dutch ship Batavia which is also described in the novel. But maybe the most evocative sights are to be found in the rural landscape apo w erful pr esence in The Mer ry Go-Round in the Sea. It almost feels like a key character. Stow gives cinematographic descriptions of the landforms and vegetation, with details of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures that Rob experiences. Travelling around the Geraldton region, you can still see windmills and derelict far mhouses. At the nearby Central Greenough Historic Settlement, there is a hamlet of buildings that show what life was like in the pioneering days. The 'twisted trees' in the novel are eucalypts that have been forced by the relentless wind to bend right over and touch the ground. The wind-rippled sand hills that are repeatedly mentioned in the story are still visible, and still look like they are made of snow. If you want to know more about Randolph Stow, visit the Geraldton-Greenough Regional Library across the road from the St Francis Xavier Cathedral. This library has a good collection of materials by and about Stow and the local area in its Heritage Services section, open Monday to Friday. The library also nises the annual Randolph Young Writers Awards, h this year celebrates its anniversary and attracts nd 700 entries each year young writers in the Mid W est reg ion. And if Geraldton's literary past and present tempts you to buy some books in a historic environment, head for Hampton Inn on the Greenough Flats just south of Geraldton. The inn's main attraction is its bookshop with a collection of 10 000 titles of used, rare and collectable books. This old coaching inn is a living relic.You almost expect Rob and Rick to ride up on their horses and step inside for after noon tea. The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow is published by Penguin, r rp $9.95. To the Islands is published by UQP, rrp $23.95. writer's city ▲ The merry-go-round replica, still beneath the large Moreton Bay fig in Geraldton. pton Inn is just south of ton. Its main attraction is y with 10 000 books.