“How to Paint a Dead Man”

August 20, 2009 at 8:21 am | Posted in Fiction | 1 Comment

How to Paint a Dead Man is Sarah Hall’s second novel to make it to the Booker list.  (She was on the short list in 2004).  Its original title was The Bottles.

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The story is told through the interlocking stories of characters in different time periods.  There are voices in first, second, and third person.  Chapter headings are the same each time that character speaks up again, so it’s like a serial broadcast of a show.  And now it’s time for… “The Fool on the Hill.”  Like that.  So it’s interesting from a technical standpoint.

I admit that this slowed me down for the first 20 pages or so.  But I found myself getting more and more wrapped up in the story, so that I went from “Ugh, I don’t know about this one” to “I really like this” to “five stars” within 250 pages.  It’s about the singular inner perspective of the artist, about coping with tragedy, and about seizing life.  It’s packed with brief moments of insight.  The language is poetic and uncomplicated.  It’s a rewarding and undemanding read.

Best of luck to Sarah Hall on September 8, when the Booker short list is announced.

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