Natural Flights of the Human Mind, Clare Morrall

This follow up to Morrall’s 2003 novel Astonishing Splashes of Colour, tells the story of two outcasts: Peter Straker, a hermit lighthouse keeper living in North Devon, and Imogen Doody, an irate school caretaker. Both have dark secrets in their pasts.

The two central characters are brought together through the renovation of the cottage left to Doody by her mysterious godfather. Through a series of letters, flashbacks and dream conversations, it emerges that Straker unwittingly caused a train crash killing 78 people and is obsessively haunted by grief and guilt. Meanwhile, the victims’ families are gathering via the internet to plan revenge for their loved ones’ deaths.

Morrall skillfully juxtaposes the banality of everyday life with the dreamworld which has played an important role in both the central characters’ lives. The portrayal of Straker’s guilt and Doody’s resentment are cleverly interwoven. However, the plot is too reliant on bizarre coincidence to be entirely believable, and the characters’ emotional issues are rather too easily resolved in a desperate bid for a happy ending.


Zoe Selthan

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