Monday, January 11, 2010

How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall

Language is perhaps the biggest doorway into Sarah Hall’s intellectually stimulating novel about art and the meaning of life. I agree with The Daily Telegraph’s description: “a fine, vivid prose of exceptional poetic intensity and luminous beauty.” Characterization is also very strong; the story is told in four intertwined narratives. Peter Caldicutt (‘The Fool on the Hill’) is a famous landscape painter living in the north of England. Peter’s daughter Susan is also an artist - a photographer - but loses her bearings when her twin brother dies (‘The Mirror Crisis’). Giorgio, an elderly Italian still-life artist, records the very last part of his life (‘Translated from the Bottle Journals’). A blind Italian teenager who lives near Giorgio comes of age while her mother tries to protect her from all the evils of the world (‘The Divine Vision of Annette Tambroni’). If you love richly evoked settings, you will also find that in this book: the fells of Cumbria and the hills of Umbria. Put all of these parts together and you have a totally amazing book.

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