Sceptre £7.99 (384pp) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

The Man Who Disappeared, By Clare Morrall

A novelist in search of a syndrome, Clare Morrall seems irresistibly drawn to characters with cognitive disorders. Her Man Booker-short listed debut Astonishing Splashes of Colour featured a heroine who suffered from synaesthesia, while subsequent novels explored Asperger's and depression. In The Man Who Disappeared, her fourth novel, she examines a yet more idiosyncratic condition - a middle-aged woman seemingly entirely happy with her lot.

Kate Kendall lives in a pretty wisteria-clad house in seaside Budleigh Salterton. Life is a pleasant round of familial duties revolving around her accountant husband, Felix, and their three privately-educated children. As a couple they still hold hands on the beach and remember anniversaries – their biggest row to date has been a tiff over wallpaper choices for the study. But as wised-up readers will know, such domestic smuggery can't possibly auger well. One day, while travelling home from a trip in Canada, Kate is taken aside by airport security to be informed that her husband has gone missing, wanted on charges of money laundering and fraud. It's a revelation that shakes her to the core, forcing her to reassess her last 27 years of married life.

Stories about marital betrayal can follow any number of scenarios, but here Morrall is less interested in if or when Felix will come back, than getting to the root of what makes him tick. Replaying scenes from her marriage, Kate starts to rake over her relationship, trying to understand what happened between herself and the man she thought she knew.

When Felix fails to return home, and the joint bank account is finally emptied, Kate is forced to sell up the family home and move to a nearby council flat. The childrens' reaction to their changed circumstance is well observed. Rory, aged nine, previously a nervy boy in the habit of talking to aliens, starts to thrive at his new local school; while older sister Millie, already embarking on her own romantic misadventures, retreats further into her own private teenage world. For Kate, now employed as a lollipop lady, it takes longer to divest the badges of middleclassdom.

Although Morrall tries hard with the jargon of international crime, Felix's Interpol-by-the-sea interlude never sits comfortably with the rest of the novel. At times the author seems unsure whether she's writing a psychological thriller or a family drama. Either way, Felix's disappearance provides a useful way to examine how notions of respectability impact on matters of the heart. Refresingly, Morrall's novel doesn't turn out to be a case of adulterous mid-life flight, but the story of a man who never felt he deserved to stay.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created