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Customer Review

on 24 August 2005
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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