Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall

Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 319 pages, 2003

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: Shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize.

Synopsis: Kitty Wellington has recently lost a child, and combined with synaestesia, which causes her to see emotions as colours, things are beginning to seem overwhelming. On top of her own problems and desolation, she’s trying to keep her father and four brothers connected as a family.

Why you should read this book: Morrall’s portrayal of Kitty is heart-breakingly good, without being overboard. Despite the numerous things afflicting Kitty (the synaestesia, depression, a malfunctioning sense of cause and effect), Morrall writes so that the reader can feel Kitty’s confusion and disorientation without the actual writing ever becoming muddled. You’ll close the book with a sense of satisfaction after a stunning climax and fitting ending.

Why you should avoid this book: Morrall writes simply yet so expressively that at times it can be painful to read about Kitty’s experiences.

Opening paragraph:

At 3:15 every weekday afternoon, I became anonymous in a crowd of parents and child-minders congregating outside the school gates. To me, waiting for children to come out of school is a quintessential act of motherhood. I see the mums – and the occasional dads – as yellow people. Yellow as the sun, a daffodil, the submarine. But why do we teach children to paint the sun yellow? It’s a deception. The sun is white-hot, brilliant, impossible to see with the naked eye, so why do we confuse brightness with yellow?

Fabulous quotes:

The girls sit hunched next to me, silent and miserable, knowing they can’t talk to me, feeling my worry, afraid to break into it.
Emily tries once. ‘Kitty-‘
‘What?’ My voice is flat and unfriendly.
I feel guilty. ‘Nearly there,’ I say in a semi-cheerful voice, which sounds unreal, even to me.
They don’t reply.
The bus stops a few hundred yards from their house. We climb down. I suddenly feel extremely tired and forget what I was worrying about. The girls hold hands with each other and I walk behind.
A police car passes us and stops. I immediately feel as if I’ve committed a crime, but surely there’s nothing illegal about going to Peter Pan. We are allowed to be out after ten p.m. with children, aren’t we?

‘Are you awake?’ he whispers.
‘I wish-‘
He doesn’t finish because I know what he wishes. I know he wants to wake up every morning and find me there. But I can’t do it. There are only certain times, when I feel right and he feels right. Then his white slows down so that all the yellows and blues and reds in his spectrum meet mine and merge, complementing the frenetic whirls of colour inside me. We look at each other and we match. Things can only work if we can share the colours out properly, evenly, between us.
‘Are you taking your pills?’

Also recommended: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon; Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy; Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre; What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] by Zoe Heller.

Also by this author: Natural Flights of the Human Mind.

Awards: Man Booker Prize: shortlist, 2003.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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