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Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall
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Sep 01, 13

Read in October, 2003

Review published in the New Zealand Herald, November 2003

Astonishing Splashes of Colour
Clare Morrall
(Tindal Street Press, $29.95)

Reviewed by Philippa Jamieson

Astonshing Splashes of Colour was shortlisted for this year's Man Booker prize, and is certainly a well-crafted first novel and a good read. The prosaic style belies its subtlety and depth, and the author captures the ephemeral in solid form, translating universal themes of loss and family relationships into a poignant story.
The novel begins with Kitty waiting at the school gates with all the other parents, and gradually it becomes obvious that she has no child. She's desperately missing her baby who died at birth three years ago, and still feeling the emptiness left when they took out her ruptured womb.
The title, borrowed from a description of J.M. Barrie's Neverland, fits with with the world of an intelligent but slightly unstable woman whose world is a surreal kaleidoscope of lost or absent children, impulsive trips, and spontaneous visits to her family members at odd times of the day and night. Kitty is a Peter Pan who has residency in adulthood but a perpetual passport to childhood. Her husband is lovingly drawn as a devoted but obsessive-compulsive tidy freak who lives in the next door flat.
She is also trying to uncover more about her mother who died when Kitty was only three, and her long-lost sister Dinah, hoping she can piece together these missing parts to make her life more whole again.
Midway through the story does a dramatic about-face. The family skeletons start rattling and then are starkly revealed, shattering Kitty's already shaky world, and leading her to even more bizarre and desperate behaviour.
Unfortunately what could have been an electrifying climax seemed contrived and left me unmoved. Instead what made an impact on me was the exploration of the arbitrary verges between maturity and naiveté, between sanity and madness.
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Elaine very good review. Philippa.You do a great job of explaining the depth behind the title and the mental instability of Kitty.Just what I would have liked to do but havn't the words like you :) I've just finished this and although I hopped about between 2 and 4 stars all the way through,ultimately I gave it 4.


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