Wednesday, November 04, 2009

2009 book 227

Sarah Hall's How to Paint a Dead Man
One of the things that impresses me most about Hall is how varied her novels are (her last book, Daughters of the North, was a crazy near future dystopian thing; her first book, Electric Michelangelo, was about a tattoo artist on Coney Island [I loved that one]. She has another one too but I don't remember anything about it, anyway, back to my point), which really few authors seem to be able to do these days--they tend to have similar themes, narrative quirks, characters, etc. In this novel, the narrative alternates between four characters and four different points in time; their lives are interrelated and all are artists in some capacity. One is an elderly Italian painter, another a blind girl in his village whom he once taught, one a well-known British artist who in his youth wrote fan letters to the Italian painter, and the fourth is that artist's photographer/curator daughter, struggling to get past a horrible tragedy in her life. Actually, they've all had tragedies in their lives, which are eventually revealed as their narratives unfold.

Of course, none of that is at all an effective way of describing the lyricism of Hall's writing, the pathos and compassion her characters engender, and how much I wished there was more to the novel, as I wasn't ready for it to end. A.

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