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Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall

Published by Tindal Street Press, 2003

Clare Morrall’s first novel was deservedly short listed for the Man Booker Prize 2003. It is a well written story which tells the tale of Kitty Wellington, an only daughter reared by a single father and four brothers. The dynamics of the family are well depicted – we are shown how secrets and lies have affected the lives of the siblings. Kitty is the narrator, so we see the other characters through her eyes.

The book is written in a clear easily read style. The characters are finely drawn with little descriptive touches of personal idiosyncrasies that bring them alive. The plot is quite a complicated one, but the author leads us skilfully through the labyrinths of family relationships. The subjects dealt with are weighty ones – loss, deception, bereavement, long buried secrets – but the writing takes the reader painlessly through these themes.

Kitty is an oddly disjointed character, with little sense of her own identity and a seeming inability to relate in any depth to the rest of her family or to her husband. Her inability to accept the death of her still-born baby and her methods of coping are shocking, as is her lack of responsibility in dealing with other people’s children. However Clare Morrall manages to portray her in such a way that we feel sympathy and understanding for her, rather than fury at her selfishness.

Overall, this book is worth reading, but it needs to be taken slowly as it has deceptive depths to it. I think it is one of those books that readers will have extreme reactions to – some people will think it absolute rubbish, but I think it is a worthwhile and thought provoking read.

Reviewed by Marie, a Clare County Library staff member