Astonishing Splashes of Colour is a beautifully crafted novel, which both engages and challenges its readers. The author, Clare Morrall, had been writing for twenty years before this particular book was accepted by a small publishing company called Tindall Street Press, based at the deliciously-named Custard Factory in Birmingham. Their faith certainly paid off, because Morrall’s novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2003.
The title is a quote from Peter Pan: ‘For the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there.’ There are intriguing links and references to J.M. Barrie’s work throughout. Kitty, the heroine, is both a grieving child and a grieving mother. To complicate matters, her brothers and son are, in their different ways, ‘lost boys’.
A fascinating feature of the book is its use of colour. Our discussions this month will enable us to explore the condition called synaesthesia. This word means ‘a joining of perceptions’, ‘a crossing of the senses’. A number of internet sites explain synaesthesia and its manifestations. One aspect is that a person can experience emotions or see people in terms of colour. Kitty is going through a yellow period in chapter one!
For me, the strength of Astonishing Splashes lies in Morrall’s ability to make us care deeply about Kitty, even as we shudder at some of her actions. We can’t condone what she does, but we can empathize nonetheless. Her life has been distorted by secrets and lies, and I defy anyone to be unmoved by Kitty’s predicament.