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The travails of a severely depressed young woman after the death of her baby.

See Kitty outside the school gates. Parents are picking up kids. Everything is yellow: for Kitty, yellow equals happiness. (Morrall leans hard on color imagery.) Now see Kitty sneak into the school. We realize her “yellow period” is more like mood indigo, for Kitty has no business here and has to beat a hasty retreat. Three years earlier, her womb had ruptured while she was pregnant with her first child, and she’s still in shock. “The world is made for children,” she thinks, “and without them you’re no one.” The 32-year-old Kitty and her husband James live in adjacent apartments in Birmingham, England. The odd arrangement satisfies Kitty’s need to grieve alone, though it disturbs James, who is loving but tight-lipped, unable to discuss their trauma. So child-husband and child-wife tiptoe around each other—though it’s the novel’s most important relationship and should have gotten more attention. But it competes for the spotlight with Kitty’s family across town: Her father Guy, a mildly bohemian artist, and a whole clump of older brothers, sisters-in-law and nieces. Kitty was raised by her father. Her mother died in a car accident when she was three and Kitty has an aching need to know more about her, but Guy and the brothers won’t talk. Then, surprise! Two dramatic revelations about her past devastate Kitty further and cause her to cross the line into a twilight world of delusions and lawlessness. She steals a baby from the hospital, then dumps it in favor of Megan, a runaway and pyromaniac. The two take an unhappy trip to the seaside before Kitty remembers to call home. A deadly fire at the end leaves Kitty essentially unchanged.

Morrall’s first, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker, handles the exploration of loss better than it does the rattle of family skeletons, but it’s still a drab, one-note affair.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-073445-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2004