Morrall, Clare 1952-
Morrall, Clare 1952-
Born 1952, in Exeter, Devon, England; divorced; children: Heather, Alex (daughters). Education: Studied music in Birmingham, England.
Home—Birmingham, England. Agent— Laura Longrigg, MBA Literary Agents, 62 Grafton Way, London W1T 5DW, England.
Writer and educator. Private piano and violin teacher; music theory teacher in private school, Birmingham, England.
Mann Booker shortlist citation, 2003, for Astonishing Splashes of Colour.
Astonishing Splashes of Colour (novel), Tindal Street Press (Birmingham, England), 2003, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Natural Flights of the Human Mind (novel), Harper Perennial (New York, NY), 2006.
It is one of Great Britain's highest literary honors to be short-listed for the prestigious Mann Booker Prize. In 2003 several debut novelists made the list, but none was more surprised than Clare Morrall, a Birmingham-based music teacher whose first novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, was released by a small local press that ran off just 2,000 copies. The shortlist citation elevated Morrall—and her publisher, Tindal Street Press—into the limelight and sparked great interest in her imaginative domestic tale of a disappointed childless woman who converts emotion into color as she seeks her way through a maze of memories.
Morrall had written four novels prior to Astonishing Splashes of Colour and had tried unsuccessfully to sell them all. She placed Astonishing Splashes of Colour with Tindal Street, a small press with just two employees and fifteen titles to its credit. When informed that she had made the Booker shortlist, Morrall was in the midst of music classes she teaches at a Birmingham preparatory school; she also teaches piano and violin lessons privately.
The heroine of Astonishing Splashes of Colour is a young woman named Kitty who has recently lost a baby and has learned that she will not be able to have any other children. The novel explores Kitty's grief and loss, her unconventional marriage, and her attempts to unravel her own family ties through dreams and conversations with her evasive father and siblings. "Astonishing Splashes of Colour is an easy read, and full of surprises," observed Tom Payne in the London Telegraph. Payne went on to note that the novel "is sad, satisfying, and answers its own questions." Payne also commented: "There is … tenderness and tragedy." Ursula Kenny in the London Observer wrote: "Gripping and powerfully engaging, this is a novel that never puts a foot wrong, despite a story line that takes some surprising twists and turns. It is a confident, astute and moving book."
Morrall noted to Emma Brockes in the Guardian that she never gave up trying to get a novel published because she always started a new project while shopping the previous one. "I like the intellectual stimulation of writing," she said. "I like the sense of isolation. In a sense, it's my recreation."
In her second novel, Natural Flights of the Human Mind, Morrall tells the story of Peter Straker and Imogen Doody. Straker lives in a lighthouse that no longer works, and Doody is a spinster caretaker for a school and lives in a cottage near the lighthouse. Both are wracked by guilt. For reasons unknown, Straker remains haunted by the deaths of seventy-eight people in a train wreck that occurred a quarter of a century earlier. As for Doody, she harbors grief for her sister's suicide and abandonment by her husband. "What ensues during the first half of the novel … [is] a smartly rendered portrait of how these two emotionally stunted, selfish souls learn simply to talk to one another," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that the author "is a deft guide through the landscape of grief." Writing in the London Times, Lucy Atkins referred to the novel as "absorbing" and noted: "Morrall can be a moving writer. The humdrum incidentals of the average British existence … form the ordinary backdrop against which hefty human emotions are played out. They are all the more powerful for their context. She is particularly good at grief." In a review on the Ready Steady Book Web site, Janelle Martin wrote: "Morrall has offered her fans and critics a novel rich in emotion and pain. Natural Flights of the Human Mind is a testament to the damage families can wreak and the repercussions for the community as a whole."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2004, Elizabeth Dickie, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour, p. 63; June 1, 2006, Sarah Watstein, review of Natural Flights of the Human Mind, p. 39.
Bookseller, September 30, 2005, Erika Hearle, review of Natural Flights of the Human Mind, p. 11; September 30, 2005, Benedicte Page, "Astonishing Splash of Success," interview with author, p. 31; January 27, 2006, Rachel Dalziel, review of Natural Flights of the Human Mind, p. 13; February 3, 2006, Liz Drew, "Reading for Pleasure: Liz Drew, Owner of Bookshop at the Tinner's Rabbit & Good Living Bookshop in Ulverston, Is Enjoying Astonishing Splashes of Colour," p. 22.
Guardian (London, England), September 17, 2003, Fiachra Gibbons, "Snubbed Unknown Sweeps Giants off Shortlist," p. 1; September 17, 2003, Emma Brockes, "I Don't Know How We'll Cope," p. 5.
Guardian Unlimited (London, England), March 8, 2003, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour.
Independent Sunday (London, England), September 21, 2003, Clare Morrall, "My Week," p. 25.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2004, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour, p. 600; April 15, 2006, review of Natural Flights of the Human Mind, p. 375.
Library Journal, July, 2004, Elaine Bender, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour, p. 72.
London Times, January 1, 2006, Lucy Atkins, review of Natural Flights of the Human Mind.
New York Times,, January 30, 2005, Taylor Antrim, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour.
Observer (London, England), October 26, 2003, Ursula Kenny, "Myth and Kin," p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, June 28, 2004, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour, p. 29; April 17, 2006, review of Natural Flights of the Human Mind, p. 164.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 10, 2004, Christine Thomas, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour.
Spectator, October 11, 2003, Venetia Ansell, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour, p. 50.
Telegraph (London, England), September 28, 2003, Tom Payne, "Shiny Red Boxes."
BBC News,http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (September 16, 2003), Caroline Frost, "Morrall's Colourful Yet Bleak Tale."
BBC News Devonhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/culture/bookshelf/booker_2003.shtml (October 15, 2003), "Fairytale Story for Devonian Author."
Birmingham 101: The Online Magazine,http://www.birmingham101.com/ (October 15, 2003), review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour.
British Arts Council—Contemporary Writers Web site,http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (January 1, 2007), brief biography of author.
January Magazine,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (January 1, 2007), Molly Farrell, review of Astonishing Splashes of Colour.
Ready Steady Book Web site,http://www.readysteadybook.com/ (June 28, 2006), Janelle Martin, review of Natural Flights of the Human Mind.
Tindale Street Press Web site,http://www.tindalstreet.org.uk/ (January 1, 2007), "Tindal Street Press—Q&A with Clare Morrall."