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Astonishing Splashes Of Colour [Paperback]

Clare Morrall
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Feb 2003
When is the right time to tell someone they're not who they think they are?Caught in an over-vivid world, Kitty is tipped off-centre by the loss of her 'child that never was'. And as children all around become emblems of hope and longing and grief, she's made shockingly aware of why she has this pervasive sense of non-existence . . .What mystery makes Kitty's decidedly odd family so vague about her mother's life? And why does Dad splash paint on canvas rather than answer his daughter's questions? On the edges of her dreams Kitty glimpses the 'kaleidoscope van' that took her sister Dinah away - will it connect her to her childhood?This compelling and witty debut tells of identity struggles in a large family, the sadness of lost children - and the optimism of an eccentric, loving marriage ('He'd make a wonderful husband if it wasn't for me'). Clare Morrall's insightful, naïf narrative has resonated with hundreds of thousands of readers since its Booker Prize shortlisting in 2003 and continues to make new fans each year.

Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Tindal Street; Reprinted Edition edition (1 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954130324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954130329
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 327,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


When an innocent trip to Peter Pan gives Kitty's four brothers an excuse to deny her access to her much-loved nieces, she finds herself in a skewed, vividly coloured world where children become emblems of hope and longing and grief. Still reeling from the loss of her own "child that never was", Kitty is suddenly made shockingly aware of the real reason for her pervasive sense of "non-existence".  Suddenly, her family's oddness, the secrets of her mother's life and death, and the disappearance of her sister come into a new focus, as Kitty struggles for her own identity.

Book Description

New edition of Man Booker Prize shortlisted debut: 80,000 copies of previous Tindal Street Press edition sold since 2003

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By jfp2006
Clare Morrall's Booker-shortlisted novel is a brave story about coping as a member of a dysfunctional family, and about getting by as an adult following an upbringing which has clearly been little less than disastrous. The title, taken from "Peter Pan", heralds a number of references, spread throughout the book, to colour as a metaphor for meaningfulness - or else its opposite...
A number of previous reviewers here would appear to have been rather severe in their pronouncements on this novel, and I really fail to see why. It is carefully written and constructed, using an ambivalent - and not wholly reliable - first-person narrator whose actions and decisions are often reckless, and who nevertheless comes over as a character the reader can't help feeling considerable sympathy for.
The narrator-character in question is Kitty, floundering around, trying to get along as best she can in the midst of her decidedly unconventional marriage to her docile and doting husband, her extremely unconscientious attitude to her work (she is a reviewer of children's books, but only when she is in the mood, which is not that often...), her eccentric and reclusive father, and the mixed fortunes of her four elder brothers, Adrian, Jake, Martin and Paul. Most importantly, Kitty is obsessed by the unresolved problems posed by her inexplicably absent mother and the baby she recently lost. Things do not get better for Kitty; rather, they go from bad to worse and worse, as she increasingly gets out of her depth and into situations she is clearly no longer capable of handling.
As a first novel, "Astonishing Splashes of Colour" is impressive in its honest and up-front treatment of painful subjects, and worthy of its 2003 Booker short-listing.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three quarters of a rainbow... 12 July 2004
I find the violent reaction against this book displayed by other reviewers somewhat surprising. OK, it has its flaws, but I can't believe anyone was honestly bored by it.
It's fair to say that this book is not entirely astonishing - but there are astonishing things about it. Morrall manages to make the protagonist Kitty so real that the reader understands and makes sense of her over-literal logic, whilst at the same time wanting to scream at her social disfunctionality. Never have a character's actions so infuriated me! Often I found myself thinking: "Don't you understand the consequences of what you're doing??" She doesn't of course - but you always feel she has the potential to do so.
The main problem with the book is that you finish reading a different novel to the one that you started. Perhaps the author lost interest in synaesthesia whilst writing the book, because this strand seems to disappear almost entirely which is a bit of a wasted opportunity. The themes of past and future, their importance and the way they affect each other, grow throughout the book to assume major importance - almost as if Morrall began to realise what she thought the book was really about part way through writing it.
Overall though it is still a very enjoyable book. Kitty is a wonderfully realised character and the love between her and her fascinating husband James is palpable. Morrall writes with a dark richness which prevents the pervading gloom of the story from ever being depressing. She is wonderfully sure of her voice - odd phrases were so astounding I had to stop myself and read them again.
Neither as astonishing nor colourful as the title would have you believe, but still an enthralling read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ...would be 4.5 stars if the system allowed it 8 Dec 2003
All this argument about whether or not this novel is 'literary' or not is misleading at best, affected at worst. Surely fiction - whatever it's labelled - is no less great if it entertains and holds us rapt; indeed it's the hook of a good story that then allows a writer to enrich, enlighten and educate. 'Astonishing Splashes of Colour' is gripping story - nearly had me miss my train stop - and a very moving one too. Clare Morrall has a great, almost painterly, gift for language and her acute observations about family life and depression struck a real chord with me (but then I'm the sister of many brothers and have bouts of being blue, so perhaps that's not surprising). So what if it's middle class or has touches of soap opera? Are these crimes? Surely that it's about birth, life and death, mothering, fathering, child-rearing, marriage... are what counts - universal themes, methinks. My only criticism is that anti-depressants come in blister packs, not bottles, and it made me cry, to the consternation of my fellow commuters. In short, I loved it.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intensely Colored Emotions 6 Oct 2003
Astonishing Splashes of Colour, Clare Morrall's first published novel, takes its title from a description of Peter Pan's Neverland. It follows the life of an eccentric Birmingham woman who in a sense never has grown up. She is impulsive, doesn't follow conventional daily time tables and can be rather mischievous. But like a child she is someone you have an immediate affection for if only, for no other reason, the purity of her response to the world. It is revealed that Kitty reacts this way because of family tragedies that have impaired her ability to act rationally and develop a secure sense of self. She lives a kind of improvised life reviewing children's books, occasionally visiting her husband who lives in the apartment next door and fostering a strange obsession for her nieces as well as other children. The remote nature of her family relations makes it all too clear why this woman maintains a childish need for love and attention.
The great strength of this novel is the strong personality of the protagonist as she relates her tale in a barely chronological sequence (which suits her jumbled state of consciousness). We follow her mood swings which switch dramatically from joy to deep depression. These are illuminated by the way she views people that emanate certain colors in accordance with her emotions. She can be at one time horribly remote and at another time excruciatingly too personal. The plot quickly gains speed as the novel progresses revealing startling details about Kitty's past. It's to the author's credit that a seemingly innocent journey to the sea side can take on such dark undertones. We feel simultaneously sympathetic and horrified with Kitty for embarking on this impetuous journey. For all this novel's local flavor, it conveys universal truths about the bonds of family, the need for love and the subsistence of childhood innocence into adulthood.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing Splashes of Colour
This book recommended for Book Club readers had an unbelievable theme and was not very well written. Read more
Published 6 hours ago by Shirley Stevens
4.0 out of 5 stars astonishing splashes of emotion
Read this book as part of a book club - Powerful story revolving around a family and some deceptions within the family. Read more
Published 18 months ago by harriett durrance
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book
This book is well written and handles the subject of depression and mental illness very well. I was disappointed at the end of the book since the ending did not seem to fit the... Read more
Published 19 months ago by jesa
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, slightly bizarre ending...
I was hooked on the main character straight away and loved this book! I lived all her anguishes, believed all her eccentricities, loved her unusual relationship with her... Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2012 by Love my Kindle
2.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing splashes of disappointment
I bought this book mainly because of the word "synesthesia" in the blurb. As a synesthete myself I thought I was in for an interesting and gripping read. Read more
Published on 29 April 2011 by Jood
3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate
I had heard much about the book and have to say, the initial chapter was very promising, but it needed to be a much better novel to live up to its title. Read more
Published on 1 Jan 2011 by Obalatan
5.0 out of 5 stars A really engrossing read
This is an odd book in many ways. It may take some time to get into it. At first I found the central character, Kitty, rather exasperating and irritating in her odd behaviour. Read more
Published on 20 Aug 2010 by Book Lover
2.0 out of 5 stars Occasional patchwork rather than astonishing splashes,
I began to slowly disengage from this book as I progressed through. Initially an interesting view inside the mind of a disturbed and grieving young woman, who we quickly gather has... Read more
Published on 18 April 2010 by Lady Fancifull
2.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly Shallow
This is the second time I have read this book, recently for a book club to refresh myself and it didn't become any more insightful the second time. Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2010 by Karen Griffin
2.0 out of 5 stars Obsessed with babies and children
Kitty is obsessed with babies and children. She reviews children's books for a living but most of her time is spent fantasising. Read more
Published on 17 Sep 2009 by Eileen Shaw
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