Thursday, 28 August 2014

Natural Flights of the Human Mind by Clare Morrall

Clare Morrall has a knack for producing very different novels featuring unusual characters in unique and often difficult situations. And no one could be more unusual than Peter Straker, a hermit in his fifties who lives in a disused lighthouse with two Siamese cats. He’s a hermit because he is burdened by guilt over an incident in his past, when he somehow caused the deaths of 78 people.

This is a shocking way to start any novel, so we can only hope that Straker is on a path to redemption. If he is, then his saviour can only be Doody, the frumpy, unhappy and angry woman who has inherited a cottage nearby. Doody’s life is also a mess because of an unhappy childhood, and because around twenty-five years ago her husband walked out never to be heard from again.

Morrall throws these two odd characters together to create a present that is full of quirkily humorous scenes, providing light relief from their own past histories, which she slowly weaves into the body of the story. Meanwhile the tension builds as the twenty-fifth anniversary of the incident which killed those original 78 people rolls around.

This is a beautifully put together story, which takes the reader through a range of emotions. At the forefront of these is the question of how does someone live with themselves if they have done a truly terrible thing. Sympathy and empathy are never far behind however, as well as hope. The reason it works so well, apart from Morrall's talent for creating memorable scenes, is the way she breathes life into her weird and wonderful characters and makes them very real. Recommended.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Natural Flights of the Human Mind

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