How to Paint a Dead Man

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Overview

The lives of four individuals?a dying painter, a blind girl, a landscape artist, and an art curator?intertwine across nearly five decades in this luminous and searching novel of extraordinary power. With How to Paint a Dead Man, Sarah Hall, "one of the most significant and exciting of Britain's young novelists" (The Guardian), delivers "a maddeningly enticing read . . . an amazing feat of literary engineering" (The Independent on Sunday).

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How to Paint a Dead Man

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Overview

The lives of four individuals—a dying painter, a blind girl, a landscape artist, and an art curator—intertwine across nearly five decades in this luminous and searching novel of extraordinary power. With How to Paint a Dead Man, Sarah Hall, "one of the most significant and exciting of Britain's young novelists" (The Guardian), delivers "a maddeningly enticing read . . . an amazing feat of literary engineering" (The Independent on Sunday).

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Editorial Reviews

The Independenton Sunday "New Review"
"Her latest novel, even more than ever, reads as though it was an absolute thrill to write....a maddeningly enticing read...an amazing feat of literary engineering."
The Independent on Sunday "New Review"
“Her latest novel, even more than ever, reads as though it was an absolute thrill to write....a maddeningly enticing read...an amazing feat of literary engineering.”
The Sunday Telegraph
“Invigorating….her verbal depiction of fictional art never stales…This deeply sensual novel is what you rarely find - an intelligent page-turner which, perversely, you also want to read slowly to savour Hall’s luscious way of looking at the world.”
Washington Post Book World
“In this gorgeous still life of a book, Sarah Hall gives us four lives…each narrated in a different voice…Hall has a poet’s gift, and this novel is best enjoyed as a prose poem whose blindingly beautiful insights gradually accrue…She has made visible to us…the ever-present shadow of eternity.”
BookPage
“Daring...Along with contemporaries like Scarlett Thomas and Lydia Millet, Hall is staking new ground for women in the “novel of ideas” category. Full of haunting images and thought-provoking ideas, How to Paint a Dead Man will linger in the mind.”
The Independent on Sunday
“Her latest novel, even more than ever, reads as though it was an absolute thrill to write....a maddeningly enticing read...an amazing feat of literary engineering.”
The Independent on Sunday New Review
Her latest novel, even more than ever, reads as though it was an absolute thrill to write....a maddeningly enticing read...an amazing feat of literary engineering.
Bookseller (London)
“Sarah Hall is a huge talent. Her third novel, How To Paint A Dead Man, is a beautiful, powerful book of love, lust, death, passion, art, desperation and loss. She writes her characters brilliantly.”
Dara Horn
In this gorgeous still life of a book, Sarah Hall gives us four lives…each narrated in a different voice…Hall has a poet's gift, and this novel is best enjoyed as a prose poem whose blindingly beautiful insights gradually accrue. Her portraits of these artists are captured moments, with each life slowed to a stop by loss and pain. She has made visible to us what we would otherwise be too blind to see in our mortal lives: the ever-present shadow of eternity.
—The Washington Post
Said Sayrafiezadeh
The book…explores the lives of four artists—two British and two Italian—appearing in distinct chapters with their own narrative modes and time periods, from the 1960s to the present. If that sounds like cause for confusion, it's not. And one of the achievements of How to Paint a Dead Man is that it moves seamlessly among its various elements without once feeling like a juggling act. Nor does Hall overemphasize how these four characters relate; instead, she concentrates largely on how they must contend with the limits of their bodies, their lives and their creativity.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Stunning visual descriptions link the stories of four artists in crisis in Hall's fourth novel (after Daughters of the North), but marginal, cross-generational relationships are what ground the book. Giorgio is a well-known painter and hermit in Italy in the 1960s, the near-blind Annette his favorite primary school student. Peter is a 50-something landscape artist in England, and Peter's daughter, Susan, a talented photographer and curator. Giorgio has cancer and for his final days tackles one last painting of his constant subject, colored bottles. Soon after his death, Annette tends his grave, innocent and fearful and now completely blind, fearing imaginary things like the Bestia—a demon that is depicted in her church. Thirty years later, Peter, who corresponded with Giorgio, is pinned under a boulder near his cottage, and contemplates the haunting relationship he had with his ex-wife, while in present-day London, Susan searches for feeling (through sex) after the sudden loss of her twin brother. Hall gracefully conveys a sense of the eternal through these imaginative, disconnected creatures who share the same unrelentingly contemplative disposition. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Artists and the art world dominate this novel of love and landscape. Hall (Daughters of the North, 2008, etc.) deftly balances multiple narratives across a generation and a geographical area bridging England and Italy. Signor Giorgio, a reclusive Italian painter, dies in the early 1960s, his last years dominated by still lifes of bottles. After his death, Annette Tambroni, a blind girl overly protected by her mother, begins to tend his grave. More than 30 years later, Peter Caldicutt, a talented English painter, finds himself pinned down by boulders at the bottom of a gorge in Cumbria. When younger, Peter had written to Giorgio to express admiration for his work and to pose some questions that caused Giorgio to reflect on his preoccupation with the seeming anachronism of the still life. Now, trapped and desperate, Peter reviews his life while waiting for rescue. Two of the objects of his reminiscence are his twin children. Danny has recently been killed in a motorbike accident; Susan, who had served almost as a mirror of her brother's moods and emotions, takes his death particularly hard and deals with it largely through erotic escape. She neglects her long-term relationship with Nathan and begins a scorching affair with Tom, her fellow curator on an art exhibit in London. Peter also recalls his early days as an art student in the '60s, his marriage to the freewheeling Raymie and the threesome they formed with Peter's even more freewheeling artistic mentor, Ivan Dyas. Although Annette makes appearances throughout this many-voiced novel, the primary figures are domineering Peter, in his daughter's eyes a "colossal man . . . who smoked dope and rock-climbed with the Earl's sons, who walkedaround either stark bollock-naked or dressed for the theatre," and sensitive, anguished Susan, trying desperately to find herself after the loss of her alter ego. Displaying a sure command of character as well as a poetic mastery of language, Hall is a talent to be reckoned with.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061430459
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/8/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 998,240
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.72 (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

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    How To Paint A Dead Man

    "How to Paint a Dead Man" by Sarah Hall is the story of four artists, seemly unrelated until you delve into the story and find the connections. Each story takes place in different times and different locations with different narratives. At first, I was a little confused, but as I continued to read I began to understand Hall's writing which is highly ambitious.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2010

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