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Morrall's colourful yet bleak tale

Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK


By Caroline Frost
BBC News Online

Clare Morrall's debut novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, has been shortlisted for this year's prestigious Booker prize.

Clare Morrall takes her title from a description of Peter Pan's Neverland, and much of her novel contains the same dreamy, almost fantastical quality, with episodes coming in and out of focus, amid kaleidoscopic bursts of colour, as the main character struggles to search for the truth about herself.

Morrall is confident of her material
Kitty is haunted by the secrets of her childhood and her own inability to bear another child, having lost her first.

Her job as a children's book critic serves only to make her situation more poignant. In this novel, children represent hope, and without them her future appears bleak.

Kitty's actions are unexplained, yet she becomes a powerful protagonist for a plot that whizzes effortlessly through its suburban surroundings.

She is as unreliable a narrator as she is passive a character, finding herself, by turn, wandering aimlessly around town, sitting in maternity wards, waiting in school playgrounds for "Henry", the boy she lost.

Such tragic material is lifted by the sympathetic writing of a first-time novelist, confident of her material.

Morrall conveys an unconventional but loving marriage, a detached but ultimately emotional family, and a young woman struggling to come back to the surface.

The story is bleak, but the colours are bright.