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Family Roundabout

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  204 ratings  ·  28 reviews
First published in 1948, this novel is about the life of two families during the inter-war years. We are shown the matriarchs around whom their families spin; but whether they direct their children gently or forcefully, in the end they have to accept them as they are.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Persephone Books (first published 1948)
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  204 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Arpita (BagfullofBooks)
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This Persephone book looks at the complex relationship between two neighboring families, the Fowlers and the Willoughbys, whose outlooks on life, are on one hand in opposition to one another, but on the other hand, find their paths unavoidably intertwined. Both the matriarch’s of the families, keep a close eye on the fates of their beloved families, but employ different styles. Mrs Willoughby, has control of the family fortune, and dictates the actions of her family members by way of controlling ...more
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The anticipation of opening a new Persephone is always a big part of the pleasure of reading one of these beautiful books. Luckily though I can generally be very confident of loving what is inside too, and certainly within a few sentences of starting this book I knew I loved it.

The story centres on the fortunes of two families in the years between WW1 and WW2 – the Fowler and the Willoughby families are the two principle families in Bellington. The Fowlers are an old genteel family, while the Wi
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure I'll ever understand the pull these British books have on me. They're so slow and laid-back, and seem to be written so impartially, and yet they keep me turning the pages.

Family Roundabout is the story of two familes, each headed by a widowed matron. Their sons and daughters marry or run away, live lives respectable or otherwise, live happily or tragically. They have children who grow up to fill their old niches. Wow, when you try to summarize the book like that it just loses all i
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: persephone
Family Roundabout tells the story of two families in a northern English town through the interwar period, approx 1920-39. The Willoughbys are the owners of the factory in the town, and have become rich in the last generation. The Fowlers are an ‘older’ family with more class but less money. Both have children in their teens and twenties when the story opens, with a Fowler girl engaged to a Willoughby boy, and both families are led by a widowed mother. Mrs Fowler rules with a gentle glove, and Mr ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Like so many interwar domestic dramas published by Persephone, this one kept me turning the pages, but it's not one I'll be rereading. There are at least a dozen major characters, and the only one I actually liked was Mrs. Fowler, and she does very little -- mostly she just keeps her place at the center of the family roundabout and observes it with bemusement. I loved the last chapter though (view spoiler).
Girl with her Head in a Book
Review recently published here:

I felt that it was less of a case of me reading this as it was gobbling it whole – I began it on Monday and then by Thursday morning had finished it with a faint sense of sadness that it was all over. Having been a long-term Just William fan, I was surprised to realise that I knew almost nothing about her adult fiction and upon discovering this in the library, I dived in with delight. I am a bit of a 1940s enthusiast, so thi
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I kept getting sucked into various storylines only to have it switch to another one. Wish the book had been longer!
Victoria Ray
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the book. The story involves the reader from word one and doesn’t let up...Its both stunning and relentlessly readable. A marvelous way to kick off a new reading year.
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a lovely read! Two families, one run by the formidable nouveau riche Mrs Willoughby and the other by Mrs Fowler, old money and rather whimsical (although her daffy Milly is a disguise for the more "knowing" Millicent. The trials and tribulations of the sons and daughters who go careering off and find their own sorts of happiness and lots of unhappiness. Wry and funny and compelling.
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have enjoyed all the Persephone books I have read and this is no exception. Written by the author of the William books, it is a family saga covering about 10 years. It is a light and easy read although it covers themes of domestic abuse, adultery, hero worship, maternal domination and loneliness. It is not depressing, but it does make you think, mainly about how lucky we are in our lives today. Being a woman between the wars was a restricting business! I loved this book and I will reread it on ...more
May 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, persephone
This story of two English families takes place in the years between WWI and WWII. The Fowlers are the former town gentry, and the Willoughbys who own the paper mill could be said to be the new town gentry. Their relationships and doings, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, are often seen from the point of view of one or the other of the two family matriarchs, the accepting but sometimes ineffectual Mrs Fowler and the forceful but sometimes ineffective Mrs Willoughby. In one situation, Mrs Fowl ...more
Beth Bonini
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: persephone-books
As far as I'm concerned, family life is ALWAYS a rich vein to mine.
In this novel, there are two families -- both headed up by a widowed mother, both middle-class (one is more genteel shabby, while the other is more nouveau prosperous), and both with five children. The mothers take a different line: one is bossy and managing, while the other is nonjudgmental and noninterfering. But neither approach is presented is wholly better than the other, and one of the mothers acknowledges, rather ruefully,
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Anything Persephone publishes is OK by me - their team have an eye for good ones to republish.

Family Roundabout is just that - two families; one town, and a mix of the two families that, like a roundabout, goes round and round, up and down. Interesting to see that what we observe is not necessarily what's going on. Some strongly drawn characters in this novel, the dreadful Belle particularly made me dislike her and her scheming hysterics. There's a novelist, wrapped up in his own self importanc
Melinda Nelsen
May 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Hard to believe that after reading the readable "Twilight" series that this book could be considered a page-turner, but it was. Just a lovely story. Well-drawn characters you really care about as you're drawn into the day-to-day lives of two families. Timeless scenarios and the human nature that tries to grapple with them.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Two houses come together to create one dysfunctional af family. The differences between the upper-class and middle-class tribes shine through with competitiveness and resentment.

The Willoughbys

✿ Where an authoritarian matriarch implements a lot of the underlying tension within her family. Continuous emotional and mental abuse is applied under the guise of decorum.
✿ Oliver's great. He went to Cambridge University and now he's too free-spirited and self-aware to settle back into a life of mill wor
Fiona Compton
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A most enjoyable book. It seems that Richmal's adult books are about families and their interaction with one another. She is particularly good at creating the characters and emotions of the children in the family. Perhaps that is why her "William" series was so popular. In the present days of trouble and political turmoil it is pleasant to be transported back to gentler days.
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Compulsively readable account of two families in interwar, rural England. I didn't have the strong emotional response to this novel as I have to other Persephone titles (see Mariana and Miss Pettigrew), but I enjoyed the psychological depiction of family relations and that propensity to repeat patterns of behaviour.
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
A look behind the Willoughby family- the backbone of their small town in 1948 England. What happens behind the scenes of this "upstanding" family makes for great reading. Crompton's style is not for everyone, but I love British novels of this era, and will read any novel I can get my hands on that are published by the lovely Persephone Books from London.
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Richmal Crompton is more famous for writing the Just William children's books but she also wrote for adults. I found this book unputdownable - the characters are well drawn and the family relationships gripping. And it's in a beautiful Persephone Books edition so is a work of art and a delight to hold as well as a very good read.
Jan 26, 2012 added it
There was a lot to like about this novel but for me too many of the plotlines (and there were a hella lotta them) centered on romance. I did, however, like the rich hack novelist who spends much time and effort trying to impress people with his modesty.
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Martha Krumbach
Excellent book
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not my kind of book but have to admit I liked it very much. So much reality and everyday life in these characters.
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this study of mothering styles and their outcomes in two middle class interwar families.
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable domestic read involving two families who are related by marriage.
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Richmal Crompton Lamburn was initially trained as a schoolmistress but later became a popular English writer, best known for her Just William series of books, humorous short stories, and to a lesser extent adult fiction books.

Crompton's fiction centres around family and social life, dwelling on the constraints that they place on individuals while also nurturing them. This is best seen in her depic
“Having come to the conclusion that there was so much to do that she didn’t know where to start, Mrs Fowler decided not to start at all. She went to the library, took Diary of a Nobody from the shelves and, returning to her wicker chair under the lime tree, settled down to waste what precious hours still remained of the day.” 13 likes
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