Monday, April 05, 2004

Astonishing Splashes of Colour

At Book Group tonight we discussed Astonishing Splashes of Colour, by Clare Morrall. The verdict was unanimously favourable. A simple and informal style makes it an enjoyable read – not a great novel, but certainly a good one. The only major pretension is perhaps the illusions in the early chapters to synaesthesia – unsurprisingly it’s not a theme that the author really manages to sustain through the entirety of the work and I have to say it probably added little anyway. That’s not to say that synaesthesia wouldn’t be a fascinating issue to explore in a novel, but despite it’s title this isn’t that novel.

One of the elements that does make this novel successful is the regular inclusions of fantastically well observed detail of human behaviour. The use of these scenes and moments ties the action firmly to the believable as the plot development becomes increasingly dramatic. An example of this crops up in one of the most dramatic scenes, in which key disclosures regarding the family’s history are made at a wake. As this unfolds we are also kept aware of the very human and mundane behaviours that accompany the main action. As the shock revelations are made, people continue to nervously consume the snacks laid out before them. Our heroine becomes aware that one of her brothers is shovelling in crisps, but in the shock is not chewing, but rather swallowing them whole; accordingly in tandem to her thoughts about the truths that are spilling out, we hear her concerns that he might scratch his throat.

Elsewhere in the book our heroines uses the No 11C bus that journeys round and round Birmingham in a never ending orbit, to escape her increasingly disintegrating life. Here she can spend hours disconnected, aimlessly circling. However, she is appalled when a bus driver nods in recognition to her. A friendly gesture shatters her desire for anonymity. It’s beautiful observed.

It possibly also explains why Travel West Midlands have sponsored the book!

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