The Beautiful Indifference: Stories

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Overview

Winner of the Portico Prize
Winner of the Edge Hill University Short Story Prize
Short-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award

Sarah Hall has been hailed as "one of the most significant and exciting of Britain's young novelists" (The Guardian). Now, in this collection of short fiction published in England to phenomenal praise, she has created a work at ...

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Overview

Winner of the Portico Prize
Winner of the Edge Hill University Short Story Prize
Short-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award

Sarah Hall has been hailed as "one of the most significant and exciting of Britain's young novelists" (The Guardian). Now, in this collection of short fiction published in England to phenomenal praise, she has created a work at once provocative and mesmerizing. 

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Yvonne Zipp
Sarah Hall can write a breathtaking sentence. The multiple prize-winner's The Beautiful Indifference is full of exquisite prose while brutality—murders, maimings, suicide—lurks in the wings.
Publishers Weekly
In seven scenic stories, characters reflect on the tumultuous moments of their lives while away from home. When capturing the self-reflective morass that people face when making tough decisions, Hall is at her best. In the title story, an author on a weekend getaway waits for her younger lover in her hotel room. He’s late, giving her time to replay their history and recall past conversations and decisions. Too nervous to read, she comes to the conclusion that, despite being a writer, she dislikes books. “Reading was an affirmation of being alone, of being separate, trapped.” Characters in other stories echo this sentiment. In “She Murdered Mortal Me,” a relationship sours during a South African vacation. A woman leaves her jungle bungalow and a brewing fight to walk the beach, haunted by fears of abandonment and rumors of leopards in the trees. Such psychologically charged situations provide opportunities for Hall to venture into contrived oversentimentality; but she never does. Stories begin without preamble, in the middle of scenes, momentum already building. Hall is in complete control, playing with the reader’s expectations at every turn, mirroring the unmoored state her characters all inhabit. An unassuming, tightly woven debut collection. Agent: Clare Conville, Conville & Walsh (U.K.). (Feb.)
Booklist
“Hall’s women are cheated on, broken up with, sick, bored, lonely; and her writing pulls the reader into subtly rendered but deeply felt worlds . . . American readers who cut their teeth on Joyce Carol Oates . . . will want to give this collection a try.”
Elle
“Well worth the wait . . . These sensuous and hair-raising stories . . . bristle with pure caprice and sheer havoc.
Daily Beast
“Incredible.”
Lionel Shriver
“Hall’s voice is strong and distinctive - even, in single, elevated passages, exquisite.”
Clare Wigfall
“Balancing muscularity with achingly beautiful prose, these stories are dark, raw and heartbreaking. An immensely satisfying and haunting collection.”
S.J. Watson
“Individually stunning, together these stories comprise a tour-de-force collection that has reignited my love of the form.”
Sadie Jones
“Sarah Hall’s writing is breathtaking...I did actually stop breathing once or twice...I loved it.”
Peggy Hughes
“Hall’s stories are disturbing and delicate, surprising and sad, assured and sensual, with a deliciously dark tint to their edges. What better recommendation for a book of short stories than to be so enchanted that you want to flip them over and start all over again?”
Jonathan Ruppin
“...the best British writer around right now.”
Jodie Mullish
“Hall’s vaunted writing prowess is apparent throughout... Without judgement, Hall seems to set her characters, and by extension all of us, on a scale with animals, rutting by instinct, violent at heart, governed by the same needs for warmth, sex, shelter and food.”
Helen Simpson
“Seven skillfully adrenalised stories, precise and sensual, in which the scent of violence is a constant.”
Laura Kasischke
“THE BEAUTIFUL INDIFFERENCE is a work of art. Each of these stories takes the reader so fully, sensually, and immediately into its world that there is no possibility of putting the book down in the middle of one.”
The Independenton Sunday
"Shows her characteristic ability to cause disquiet ... Hall’s sharply perceptive observations strike like slaps ... There is a deeply sensual element to her writing: it is visceral and instinctive ... It’s like sinking into a Rothko painting. Language is used inventively. These are stimulating, unsettling stories that... intrigue and mesmerise."
Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“Hall’s prose can be intimate or elliptical but the effect is never less than striking...She expertly evokes unquiet thoughts, broken lives, and haunting encounters with nature, and the work that results never fails to be thrilling.”
The Independent on Sunday
“Shows her characteristic ability to cause disquiet ... Hall’s sharply perceptive observations strike like slaps ... There is a deeply sensual element to her writing: it is visceral and instinctive ... It’s like sinking into a Rothko painting. Language is used inventively. These are stimulating, unsettling stories that... intrigue and mesmerise.”
The Times (London)
“These stories...constantly thwart one’s dramatic expectations--and are all the more dramatic for it. This prose...is wonderful.”
Metro
“Luscious short stories from uber-talented Cumbrian writer Sarah Hall, all told in ravishing prose.”
Sunday Times (London)
“Hall evokes her landscapes with bewitchingly vivid prose. Her writing is gutteral and visceral…her characters are raw and sinewy. Every tale…delights and disturbs,..illustrates that short fiction is…a finely wrought art…and Hall is an artist of considerable…skill. [A] collection of astonishingly sensuous power...Hall is a writer of both rare vision and talent.”
The Independent on Sunday
“Shows her characteristic ability to cause disquiet ... Hall’s sharply perceptive observations strike like slaps ... There is a deeply sensual element to her writing: it is visceral and instinctive ... It’s like sinking into a Rothko painting. Language is used inventively. These are stimulating, unsettling stories that... intrigue and mesmerise.”
The Times (London)
“These stories...constantly thwart one’s dramatic expectations--and are all the more dramatic for it. This prose...is wonderful.”
Metro
“Luscious short stories from uber-talented Cumbrian writer Sarah Hall, all told in ravishing prose.”
Sunday Times (London)
“Hall evokes her landscapes with bewitchingly vivid prose. Her writing is gutteral and visceral…her characters are raw and sinewy. Every tale…delights and disturbs,..illustrates that short fiction is…a finely wrought art…and Hall is an artist of considerable…skill. [A] collection of astonishingly sensuous power...Hall is a writer of both rare vision and talent.”
Kirkus Reviews
Seven stories populate award-winning English novelist (How to Paint a Dead Man, 2009, etc.) Hall's first collection. "Butcher's Perfume" is set up against the Scottish border, "burnt farm, red-river, raping territory," where motherless Kathleen falls in with the Slessors, a prosperous family with a "gipsy" mother. Intrigued by petite and blue-eyed, hard-bitten and combative Manda, Kathleen soon needs help from a brother, Aaron, who rights a wrong with a brutal fierceness. In the title story, an older-woman–younger-man couple meet for a tryst. The man is a doctor-in-training, and there are intimations the woman is mortally ill. Next comes "Bees," rendered in second person. A woman, disgraced by her husband's illegitimate child, leaves her beloved northland's "great heathered fells" to seek refuge with a London friend, lingering there unemployed, unemployable, contemplating a garden filled with dead bees. In "The Agency," a comfortable life, thriving children and a professorial husband are risked by a woman after a sophisticated friend introduces her to an elegant service willing to provide a companion "to meet all possible needs." Lovers take a vacation to an isolated African resort in "She Murdered the Mortal He." There is a fracture in the relationship, and frustrated, she walks to a nearby village, glimpsing "in a clean bolt of panic," a white shape trailing her. It is but a dog, a beast that later returns with a bloodied muzzle. Most affecting is "The Nightlong River," a story of north country girls shortly after the Great War. The land has been seized by winter so cold as to be an "inverse Eden." Magda is ill. Dolly attempts to help, learning in the end the dead leave us in "the solid world upon which we find ourselves, and in which we reign." The collection concludes with "Vuotjärvi." A couple vacation at a remote Finnish lake, and on an idyllic summer outing, the man attempts to swim to an island and disappears. Visual and vibrant. Literary and lyrical.
Library Journal
Author of the Man-Booker-shortlisted The Electric Michelangelo, Hall weaves together elements of gothic horror, futuristic sf, and the British tradition of murder ballads to create a strikingly original voice full of lyric intensity. The animal nature of human longing lies at the heart of this collection, as does the connection between physical abandon and actual or imagined loss. In one story, a woman hurt by her lover's declaration that something is wrong in their relationship loses her way when walking near the ocean; in another, again in a remote setting near the water (this time in a village in Finland), a woman whose mind continually wanders into memories of blissful lovemaking realizes that her lover has not returned from a swim in the lake. Other stories involve minks and their pelts, dead bees in a garden ("still, fossil-looking things"), and the revelation of horse butchery, among other grisly scenes. VERDICT Hall's work, like that of Joyce Carol Oates and Patricia Highsmith, uses the conventions of genre fiction to great advantage, presenting the dangers to which we cannot help but expose ourselves simply by being human.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062208453
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/29/2013
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 187
  • Sales rank: 725,777
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Hall

Sarah Hall was born in Cumbria, England. Her fiction has won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the James Tiptree, Jr., Literary Award, and the Portico Prize. She has been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (South Asian and Europe region), the Prix Femina-Roman Etranger, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Biography

Sarah Hall, born in 1974, divides her time between the north of England and North Carolina. The Electric Michelangelo, her second novel, was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

Good To Know

"Well, most of the jobs I have done have galvanized the idea that I want to be doing something completely different, like writing. These include working in a meat factory on a 6 a.m. shift to the 6 p.m. shift, working in a mail-order fly-fishing outlet (I always sent out the wrong size of sedge out, making fishermen and fisherwomen all over the UK irate I'm sure), walking dogs, fitting spectacles, pulling pints of beer, and selling horrible art."

"I occasionally make things out of salvaged material, creepy Victorian shadow-box looking constructs, and am consequently quite partial to glue."

"Drivers who do not acknowledge thanks when I've let their car filter into my traffic lane make me furious. Ah, yes, and if I'm holding the door open for you, and you're a man, please don't take it from me and try to make me go in first."

"To unwind, I'm a bit of a keen fell walker (fells are mountain in the north of England). I also enjoy jumping up and down on the same spot, joyfully, like a kid. Any kind of watery expanse brings me peace and makes me feel like I'm home -- I was born and brought up right by a river and it's very likely that I haven't ever been drained properly. I'm really keen on folk art. I like frogs and peanut butter -- not together though, that wouldn't taste good."

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    1. Hometown:
      Charlotte, North Carolina, USA and Carlisle, Cumbria, UK
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 6, 1974
    2. Place of Birth:
      Carlisle, Cumbria, UK
    1. Education:
      B.A., The University of Wales, Aberystwyth; M.A. in Creative Writing, St. Andrews University, Scotland

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Short compelling stories

    Interesting stories for certain. Well written. They do all leave the reader with unanswered questions.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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