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Astonishing Splashes of Colour Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 28, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like Booker-winner Monica Ali, British newcomer and Booker finalist Morrall creates an alienated yet immensely appealing heroine. But unlike Ali's protagonist, Kitty Wellington is at home in Britain's culture; it's her spectacularly dysfunctional family and a personal tragedy that bring her grief. Dangerously unstable after a miscarriage and her resulting inability to conceive again, Kitty sees other people and her environment in auras of color. A device brilliantly effective at times, this serves to establish Kitty's febrile, fantastical imagination. For three years, Kitty has lived in a flat next door to her loving, ineffectual husband, whose own problems (a limp; an obsession with order; a fear of unfamiliar places) render him similarly incapable of dealing with the world. But Morrall gradually reveals the real cause of Kitty's anguish: her lack of identity. Brought up helter-skelter by her irascible, eccentric artist father and four older brothers, Kitty has no memory of her mother, who died when she was three. Even in her most depressed moments, however, Kitty has wit and intelligence, even as her childlike impulsiveness and failure to foresee the consequences of her acts lead her to initiate a double kidnapping. Morrall artfully reveals the true story of Kitty's family in a suspenseful plot that unfolds like layers of an onion, meanwhile providing a convincing portrait of a woman striving for emotional survival.
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From The New Yorker

This début novel is narrated by Kitty, a childlike woman who lives next door to her husband, rides in circles for hours on the city bus, and sees the world as a kaleidoscope of vivid colors. She is obsessed by the loss of the mother and sister she never knew, and of the baby she miscarried. Morrall deftly charts how Kitty's harmless eccentricity turns to sinister fixation as she loiters outside elementary schools, suffers disconcerting lapses of memory, and sinks deeper into despair. Some rather hackneyed plot twists notwithstanding, Kitty's voice, by turns bewildered, selfish, and angry, and leavened by a dry wit, carries the book; she observes of her elder brother, a pompous novelist who ignored her as a child, "He'll regret it one day, when his biographer interviews me about his early life. I shall be entirely truthful."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (November 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060734450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060734459
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,436,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Bellomy on November 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
In a weird mood I decided to buy most of the books that were shortlisted for this year's Booker Prize. I read Vernon God Little right after it won, and thought that it was an interesting experiment. Then a couple of days ago I picked up Clare Morrall's Astonishing Splashes of Colour. Is it a better first novel than Vernon God Little? Should it have won the Booker instead? I can't believe how inconsequential the question now seems to me. "DBC Pierre"'s novel was more daring, but it's Clare Morrall's that will remain with me. It's not perfect, but it's astonishingly well written for a first novel (although since Ms Morrall has grown children, according to the blurb, one assumes she has a lifetime of well chosen, deeply embedded reading). There are a couple of plot twists that I should have been anticipating, but frankly I was simply too engrossed with reading the novel to think that far ahead. There are other plot elements toward the end that are not explained at all, although I personally think this may be a strength rather than a weakness: life cannot always be neatly wrapped up in plot denouements. The description in the British paperback I read (with a different, superior cover than the American edition, for what it's worth) describes the novel as a reflection of Morrall's "interest in the dynamics of motherless family life and in synaesthesia -- a condition in which emotions are seen as colours." That makes it all sound very clinical. What it's about is more simply families and children, and the heartbreak you feel when the narrator says four pages from the end, "I don't think I've grown up. I don't feel important enough." If you've ever been a "lost child," or lost a child, or a mother, or a brother, or a sister, read it and respect its hard-earned tears and minor victories.
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Format: Hardcover
This first-person novel of a world disintegrating was rightfully short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize. Author Clare Morrall has constructed an unforgettable novel of a woman desperately struggling to make sense of who she is. Kitty sees life in colors - the yellow of motherhood, the pink of her nieces, the blinding white of all colors mixed together in her husband - but these colors, even as they comfort her, remind her constantly that she has lost a child and her ability to have another. Her large family doesn't speak of tragedies and the past, and her husband James is even better at avoidance, as the two live in separate, side-by-side flats. Even though she is loved and protected by her family, she flails through her crisis by herself, with only her therapist to steady her in twenty minute appointments. It becomes apparent from the beginning that Kitty needs a child, and will do or say anything to maintain the illusion that she is a mother. Despite her tottering on the brink of insanity, Kitty's Birmingham, where most of the novel is set, is vivid and alive. Her actions are sometimes chilling and yet they acquire logic through her eyes.

Kitty's voice is consistently believable, and it provides the quiet, driving force of Morrall's novel. Here, insanity has the voice of reason. Even when the plot edges toward the melodramatic, Kitty's narration rescues it. The characterizations aren't always as distinct as they might be, with some of Kitty's brothers melting into each other despite the author's attempts at distinguishing them. Morrall writes, "None of them looked alike, but my memory produced a composite brother," and even this early in the book, it comes across as an excuse.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

January 9, 2005

A favorite book of mine from 2004, ASTONISHING SPLASHES OF COLOUR was a great character study about a woman with Synesthesia who has a hard time coping with the world. She seems to have the mind of a child at times, although she lives in her own place (across the way from her husband), earns a living by writing book reviews for children's books, and seems at first glance to be a very normal and stable adult.

However, upon closer look, things look quite differently. Kitty Wellington seems to be on the verge of falling apart. She spends her days looking for her child Henry. She also seems to end up on the bus a lot, going nowhere, sometimes coming home early in the morning. Her need to be awake is sometimes so intense, for she fears her dreams.

She also has a deep need to find out more about her mother. Because her mother died when she was only 3 years old, she has very little memory of her, and what she does remember she believes are false memories. Her brothers won't help her, saying it's been too long ago for them to remember a thing. Even her father refuses to help her out.

While at first her behavior didn't seem too abnormal, it comes to a point where she begins to do things that are totally irresponsible. When she begins to behave erratically, such as taking a baby that doesn't belong to her, her family realizes that she needs help, fast.

ASTONISHING SPLASHES OF COLOUR was a truly fascinating look at a woman whose mental state is slowly deteriorating. It is difficult to like a character such as this, because often times the reader will not know whether to sympathize with her or be angry with her. What I do feel, though, is that this was a great reading experience and it is a book that I will not forget for a very long time. The Ratmammy gives this book 5 stars.
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