Sunday, 9 August 2009

Book of the Week and bibliography - Sarah Hall, How to Paint a Dead Man

"How to Paint a Dead Man" is the fourth novel by Sarah Hall, who was born in Cumbria in 1974. It has been included on the longlist for this year's Man Booker Prize; her three previous novels all won literary prizes, and she is clearly an author to watch.

Hall took a degree in English and Art History at Aberystwyth University. She began to take writing seriously from the age of twenty, first as a poet (several of her poems appearing in poetry magazines), then as a fiction-writer. She took an M.Litt. in Creative Writing at St Andrew's University and stayed on for a year afterwards to teach on the undergraduate Creative Writing programme.

Hall's first novel, Haweswater, was published in 2002. It is set in the 1930s, focuses on one family - the Lightburns - and is a rural tragedy about the disintegration of a community of Cumbrian hill-framers, due to the building of a reservoir. It won several awards, including the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book). Her second book, The Electric Michelangelo (2004), set in the turn-of-the-century seaside resorts of Morecambe Bay and Coney Island, was shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best Book). The Carhullan Army (2007), won the 2007 John Llewellyn-Rhys Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the 2008 Arthur C Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction. How to Paint a Dead Man has now joined this list of successful novels, although it remains very much an outsider for this year's Booker Prize.

" Italy in the early 1960s: a dying painter considers the sacrifices and losses that have made him an enigma, both to strangers and those closest to him. He begins his last life painting, using the same objects he has painted obsessively for his entire career - a small group of bottles. In Cumbria 30 years later, a landscape artist - and admirer of the Italian recluse - finds himself trapped in the extreme terrain that has made him famous. And in present-day London, his daughter, an art curator struggling with the sudden loss of her twin brother while trying to curate an exhibition about the lives of the twentieth-century European masters, is drawn into a world of darkness and sexual abandon. Covering half a century, this is a luminous and searching novel, and Hall's most accomplished work to date. "


Haweswater. Faber and Faber, 2002. Card covers with dustwrapper.
The Electric Michelangelo. Faber and Faber, 2004. Card covers with dustwrapper.
The Carhullan Army. Faber and Faber, 2007. Hardcover with dustwrapper.
How to Paint a Dead Man .Faber and Faber, 2009. Card covers with dustwrapper.

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