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Astonishing Splashes of Colour

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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,922 ratings  ·  187 reviews
When is the right time to tell someone they're not who they think they are?Caught in an over-vivid world, Kitty is tipped off-centre by the loss of her 'child that never was'. And as children all around become emblems of hope and longing and grief, she's made shockingly aware of why she has this pervasive sense of non-existence . . .

What mystery makes Kitty's decidedly odd
...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 1st 2003 by Tindal Street
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Windy
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book. I've read some reviews where readers have said they were disappointed. I think this comes from the blurb giving the impression that this is a story about synaesthesia. However, this is only one small part of Kitty, the narrator of this story of a dysfunctional family. At heart this is a story of a woman, brought up in an all male household, no mother on the scene and who, after the loss of a child, suffers with depression. When family secrets are revealed, dropped on Kitty ...more
Gail
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a strange and fascinating novel. Kitty, who narrates the novel, is a woman in her thirties who feels lost in various ways - she knows that when she was a young child, her mother was killed in a car crash and her older sister ran away from home, but she cannot remember either of them. She had a baby of her own who died, and she is haunted by this. She feels lost in a sort of Never-Never Land (the novel's title is a quotation from Peter Pan) and reality and fantasy get merged in her mind, ...more
Sarah
Splashy, yes. Astonishing? No.

I imagine a lot of people figured out early on in this book what the surprises would be. I'd like to think the plot was constructed as a stage for synaethesia, but even that seems hardly fleshed out.

Unfortunately my sympathy for the character, Kitty, didn't go very far, despite what are admittedly some pretty big troubles. Aside from her, the other characters seemed underdeveloped. They came with labels: the husband is "sanity in a can," the oldest brother "the su
...more
Cecily
May 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Focuses on a motherless child/childless mother from a big but emotionally distant family. References to Peter Pan make a rather crass analogy.

She is also a synaesthete (though oddly that thread fizzles out as the plot becomes more interesting), and has very little social/self awareness of the consequences of her actions on others.

You never really understand any of the characters - and especially not why James loves her. Perhaps that is a deliberate parallel with how little any of the character
...more
Julian Lees
Oct 07, 2016 rated it liked it
ASTONISHING SPLASHES OF COLOUR was a compelling but depressing novel.
Kitty comes across as quite unhinged for much of the story, so accompanying her through this journey is both frustrating and excruciating at the best of times.She has an odd relationship with her husband James. To be honest, she has an odd relationship with nearly everyone in this book, especially young Megan. Furthermore, the revelation re Dinah was not a revelation whatsoever - you could see it coming a mile away.
Crosy
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
I tried. I really, really tried to finish this book, but I just couldn't. I always feel terrible for not finishing a book, but with this one, I also feel strangely relieved.

What made this book interesting to me was for one the title and then the concept: being raised as the youngest of a number of siblings, almost all brothers, never knowing her mother, Kitty tries to find out about the history of her family and especially her mother.

If the author had spent more time on the supporting character
...more
Philippa
Jul 15, 2012 rated it liked it
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 begin
...more
Venkataraghavan Srinivasan
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Writing, as an act, tends itself towards solidity. Putting words down reflects a certain process of thought, of decisiveness, of clarity. There is a tangibility that is impossible to deny; at any point in time, one can hold up a sheaf of papers, all filled in.

As a novelist, as a storyteller, this quality of presence grows in strength. A storyteller is a guide in a dark cave, carrying the only source of light and choosing what to illuminate and what not to. The act of illumination can rouse feeli
...more
Sarah Sammis
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
I read the book because of title and I enjoyed the few moments here and there when Clare Morrall played up her book's connection to Peter Pan but for the most part Astonishing Splashes of Colour left me bored. Kitty for a variety of reasons is a thirty-something adult who refuses to grow-up. It's not that she's young at heart or playful, she doesn't want to face the harsh reality that life can sometimes throw at a person.

Of course, there must be reasons for Kitty's withdrawal from the real world
...more
Colm
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sleep-stealers, 2019
This is a book I thought I’d hate. This is a book that I wanted to have an excuse to throw away and move on to something else (I have a lot to get through) but, despite all that, this was a book I couldn’t put down. This is a book that made me squirm with discomfort. This is a book that made me want to read through my fingers. I feel like this book is what other people felt when they read Problems and didn’t hate it.

Having a mentally ill narrator is such a fine line to tread. You don’t want to
...more
Donna
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-prize
I absolutely ADORED this book. The story of a young woman struggling to define her
identity among highly unusual circumstances. Beautifully written, a story
that draws you in completely, wonderfully crafted three-dimensional
characters, settings that live and breathe all on their own. Virtually
flawless.

A favourite passage (one of many): "Most couples I know blend and merge when
they marry, take each other's colours and become stronger....James and I
don't seem to have worked out how to do that perman
...more
Stephanie
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant in every single way.
Georgie Rose
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing; tragic but real. Was like reading someone's thoughts and dreams. ...more
Yessica P
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mental-issues
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Athena Kennedy
This is the story of Kitty, a woman with a peculiar family history who has suffered a personal tragedy resulting in the loss of her unborn child - and the loss of her ability to have children. This experience has knocked Kitty a little off her rocker, and we follow her through a series of interactions that cause her to unravel further.


I really wanted to like this novel because of its title. As the first few pages indicate, "Astonishing splashes of colour" is a quote from Peter Pan, which evokes
...more
Deborah Pickstone
I could not warm to this. Not helped by first person present. As for the supposed synesthesia, the author is not synesthetic and doesn't 'get' it at all; chucking colour related adjectives around does not give anything like a sense of synesthesia. As for making Kitty hyper-aware of nuances of feeling, emotion, colour and then having her report being unable to picture her brothers as individuals when she was younger - they appeared in memory as a generic 'brother', you can't have it both ways; ei ...more
Jana
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed this book, just I didn’t like the end. It changed too fast from deeply and colorfully portrayed psychological world to high-speed action book. While Kitty sucked me like a black hole into her Peter Pan childish and confused perspective while trying to figure out why she was seeing everything in colours and discovering about her silent brothers and too distracted father, non existing mother and sister, and then slowly evolving into her own husband and child story – I thought, yes ...more
Nina
An emotionally engaging, worrying, beautiful, tragic, wonderful and upsetting book. In the beginning, I kept thinking how amazing it is that the main character, Kitty, is functioning at all. What a tragic childhood, what a dysfunctional family, what a terrible thing she went through as an adult. And then it just goes from very bad to a whole lot worse. As a reader, you know it's all going terribly wrong, but it's still oddly mesmerising. Poor Kitty, she's been lied to all her life, she didn't kn ...more
Suzy
Jul 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book about a week ago. When I began it, I loved it. It seemed to hold a lot of promise and mystery, and it did indeed hold my attention throughout. The main character is a little unbalanced, but not so much so that you can't relate to her and like her. The cause of the loss of balance is gradually revealed, but even more gradually revealed is the underlying cause: deception. I can't say more without having to declare this a spoiler. The book is very well written, but I must say t ...more
Penny
May 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: contemporary
This is a meandering, slow-paced account of a woman and all her emotions concerning her family, her lost baby and everything she experiences - right down to how coffee swirls in the cup, how light falls across a room - the writing is so busy being poetic that the story is put on hold and all sympathy with the main character Kitty, is by-passed.

I see it was short-listed for the Booker and perhaps many other people would enjoy it but it is excruciatingly slow and describes endless details that are
...more
Karen
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a delightful surprise (served on a platter of no expectation).

An achievement of storytelling in the voice of a complicated, troubled (no, damaged), self-aware narrator with a convincing skill I'll liken to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Many themes run through this steady stream of good pace, clear characters and brow-raising events.

Sensitive, intelligent, smooth writing, deceptively simple, kept me turning pages over a weekend not because of any specific 'what happe
...more
Barbara
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall is a proper cup of tea, startlingly cold.

Kitty decides she must learn who her mother is but she can't get a straight answer from her dad or brothers. How is it that she's grown up in this family and knows nothing?

As the reader, the journey is a peculiar one because after a while you begin distrusting Kitty's viewpoint on the world. If you've ever read the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper", then you k
...more
Sophia
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel M
Dec 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating impressions and way of describing a complex illness. The protagonist is slowly going crazy, but the reader is led to this conclusion slowly, apart from the labels we are often thrusting on anyone who is different. Beautiful way of seeing the world.
Dana
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Good plot line, but very muddled in the beginning - theme/device of the colors is not applied consistently throughout - and the brother characters are not developed nearly enough for the presence they play at the end.
Helen Pridham
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who want to be depressed
Shelves: read2005
A story of a dysfunctional family with a very depressed and unbalanced woman at it's centre.
Best described in three words-
de
press
ing.
...more
Mary Warner
Jun 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book. First-person narration critical to book. As Kitty slips into madness, her reasoning seems perfectly logical. Color is a continual theme, along with lost children.
Mary
Really? This novel was short-listed for the 2003 Mann-Booker prize? I am shocked. It was a mess! Was it about mental illness? The ties that bind? Babies? Ugh, who cares.
Linda
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was an amazing read. I don't always go for the messed-up protagonist fiction, but this was deftly handled and beautifully written. ...more
Donal O Suilleabhain
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I actually found it a bit colourless and the family dynamics really didn't hold my attention enough. ...more
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Man Booker Prize shortlisted Clare Morrall shot to fame in a true to life rags-to-riches story when her novel ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ and her tiny, unknown publisher became front page news after the shortlisting. Later novels have featured on TV Book Club, Front Row and Woman’s Hour on Radio Four and Radio Three, along with the sale of film and foreign rights. She has been awarded an hono ...more

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
153 likes · 58 comments
“We sit together in silence for a while. This is what I have always liked about James. We can make a good silence together. There's something between us that doesn't need words or actions. It settles around us and I can feel it now, hovering gently, ready to wrap me in its nebulous folds, like a delicate lace shawl. I want it to be like this always, something inside us meeting and holding hands, something calm and soothing and healing.” 4 likes
“I've never before understood that I too can be needed and wanted. I've been the youngest child for so long that I never seen myself any other way.” 1 likes
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