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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Everyone seems to be going somewhere except me."
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...
Published on 24 Aug 2005 by jfp2006

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Children, colours and craziness.
Morrall has produced a character through which she illustrates how important she believes the role of a mother figure is in an individual's life. Subtle techniques are used throughout the novel which left me feeling immersed in Kitty's character, a 32 year old woman dealing with depression. The narrative follows her chain of thought; she regularly corrects herself and...
Published on 1 Jan 2009 by Rose Derbyshire


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Everyone seems to be going somewhere except me.", 24 Aug 2005
By 
jfp2006 (PARIS/France) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
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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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intensely Colored Emotions, 6 Oct 2003
By 
Eric Anderson (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
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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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing Splashes of Talent, 16 Feb 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
I only had to spend one chapter with Kitty, waiting outside a primary school for a child who does not exist, seeing the emotions of the other mothers as auras of patient yellow, desperately trying to escape from the needy approaches of a lonely au pair, to be hooked on this thriller.
More and more sweetly complex mysteries emerge from Clare Morrall's clear-running prose as we meet Kitty's husband who lives next door, her ramshackle family of older brothers, and her father who paints the sea but hates it. A passage in which Kitty takes her neices to the pantomime looks as though it is going to be a funny description of a disastrous toddler trip, but the laughter slides into genuinely scary panic.
It's a measure of Morrall's skill that you find yourself falling in love with Kitty and wanting someone to smack some sense into her at the same time. One plot twist is carefully signalled so as to make you feel smugly in control, but the others come as real shocks to the system. When I finished, I felt the need to go back and read it again to find out why I didn't spot things coming the first time round. I have a feeling that Kitty is one of those characters who will stay in my head for a very long time.
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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
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We have to stop spinning occasionally � let the colours show, 5 Feb 2005
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
Astonishing Splashes of Colour was short listed for the Booker Prize - somewhat unjustifiably, because it isn't that good. Clare Morall's writing is sometimes uneven and while her strength is in character development and dialogue, her narrative and sense of structure is often stilted and not as tight as it might be. However, having said this, the book is certainly a good read, and captures with a resounding force the universality of loss and the difficulties of non-communicative families.
Astonishing Splashes of Colour is a story of heartbreak and loss, where secrets are maintained for years, and where life can often be a surreal and bizarre kaleidoscope of confusing colour.
Set in the city of Birmingham and using J. M. Barrie's Neverland as a framing device, the story centers on the unconventional Kitty and her disparate, rather eccentric family. From early on it becomes obvious that something terrible has happened to Kitty: we meet her as she waits at the school gates with all the other parents but it is readily clear that she has no child. The reader soon learns that her young son Henry died at birth three years ago and there's nothing but emptiness and barrenness in her life. A children's book critic, Kitty lives in a flat next door to her finicky obsessive-compulsive tidy husband James. They have a kind, decent marriage, but memories of her long lost mother constantly haunt Kitty, and her father and her brothers refuse to talk about her.
Part detective story and part journey of discovery, Astonishing splashes of Colour is about the connection between art, colour, and life. For Kitty, "daytime colour is just a façade, a coat of paint splashed on to fool us into thinking the world is genuine." It's as though Kitty's mother had died and taken everything of herself with her, as if she new in advance and sorted through her personal life, destroying all evidence of her existence. Kitty must uncover the truth about her mother, and also her long-lost sister Dinah, so that she can piece together these missing parts to make her life more whole again.
Kitty is such a complex and beautifully drawn character that readers will immediately emphasize with her plight. She aches to have a child but she only knows children in books, having adventures, discovering things, and thinking things. She likens herself to the lost boys in Peter Pan and because she grew up without a mother, she feels she's lost - "nobody can guide me back to the right place, because there's nobody who can give me what I want."
As the narrative progresses and the family skeletons are revealed, the colours of life begin to blur too fast, shattering Kitty's already rickety and shaky world. And while her father tries to tell her to be bold by putting all the colours in and mixing them up, "because colour is life," Kitty inevitably begins to fall apart and starts to act out bizarre and desperate behaviour resulting in chaos for all around her.
The novel is full of drama, heartache, and lots of surprises that most viewers will not see coming. And while, at times, the novel may read like a trumped up version of the Eastenders, Astonishing Splashes of Colour is still a compulsive and ultimately satisfying read, where the line between sanity, madness, world-weariness and childlike naivety is explored with great creative and literary skill. Mike Leonard February 05.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly accurate...and disturbing, 17 Mar 2004
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
I can't believe people didn't like this book...except I guess that's how literature works. 'Astonishing Splashes of Colour' had me gripped from the very beginning. I found Kitty a sympathetic character, alternately endearing and horrifying. Her reactions to the loss of her baby are so spot-on: her guilt, anxiety and her diminshed abilty to 'connect' with those around her all rang bells for me.
I didn't find this an easy book to read, emotionally. I had to keep putting it down and re-immersing myself in normality before I felt able to plunge back into Kitty's dark world. That said, I am eternally grateful to Clare Morrall for tackling these issues in such an honest way.
My advice would be: read this book, but for goodness sakes, stay near to the freezer so, like Joey Trebbiani, you can banish it there if it all gets too much!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 17 Dec 2003
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
Every morning, without fail, I read my paper on the tube to work. I'm a news addict and this is normally one of the best parts of the day for me.
Today was the first time in my memory (and I've been taking the same tube for seven years) that I abandoned the newspaper in order to finish this book. I only started it yesterday morning but found it an utterly compelling read. Dark, disturbing, warm, humane, and peopled with beautifully drawn-out characters. They may not always be 100% believable, but you care for them deeply.
For me, this book is in a different class to Vernon God Little and I vastly preferred it.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thumbs up from me!!, 9 Dec 2003
By 
A M Waterworth (Fife, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
An astonishing book that certainly brought some colour to my life. I loved it and found it hard to put down. I was fascinated by Kitty and her large unconventional family. Kitty’s synaethesia, where emotions and feelings were expressed as colours, added an extra dimension. As the story progressed various family secrets emerged adding greatly to my interest. The characters were all plausible, if somewhat eccentric, and I found Kitty and her soul-mate, James, particularly likeable. The climax of the book is very dramatic, although somewhat far fetched, but the reader is left to reach their own final conclusion.
As well as the plot and story line, I was very impressed with Clare Morrrall’s style of writing. I loved the descriptive passages, the dialogue and unusual turn of phrase.
This is a book I will savour and read again – can’t wait for the next one!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great novel, both uplifting and heartbreaking, 17 May 2008
By 
C. painter - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Astonishing Splashes Of Colour (Paperback)
I found Astonishing Splashes of Colour a compelling and if not heartbreaking account of love, loss and human identity.
The central character, Kitty is a deeply flawed individual who has endured personal tragedy on a series of levels and is struggling to cope and find purpose in her own life. Although her actions throughout the novel are unethical and deeply questionable, her state of despair is so consuming that as a reader you understand her motives rather than reject them.
This is a great novel about humanity and personal struggle, the characters are well formed and immediately identifiable and although the Kitty's narrative is sometimes unreliable this only adds to the characters fragile state of mind.
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Astonishing Splashes Of Colour by Clare Morrall (Paperback - 1 Feb 2003)
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