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.
How to Paint a Dead Man at:
How to Paint a Dead Man
'Sarah Hall is a huge talent. Her ... 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 and is one of my favourite writers of the past few years - and I wish I had more space to enthuse.' - Ruth Atkins, Booksellers Choice, The Bookseller
'Sarah Hall's writing is powerful as well as delicate, and How to Paint a Dead Man affords the deepest pleasures fiction has to offer. She weaves together the four strands of the story with supreme conviction, beauty and emotional intelligence. To read it is to become a staunch admirer.' - Nadeem Aslam
'Elegantly entwining four separate but interconnected lives - from a dying painter to a young woman having a dangerous affair - it's a moving read.' - Elle Magazine
'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.' - Lucy Beresford, Sunday Telegraph
'An amazing feat of literary engineering. ... While her characters are sharp and hauntingly memorable ... it is for her mastery of landscape that Hall is most acclaimed.' - Katy Guest, Independent on Sunday
'Elegant and poetic ... Captivating.' - **** Eithne Farry, Marie Claire
'Sarah Hall writes a fine, vivid prose of exceptional poetic intensity and there are passages in this novel, in particular the sections in Annette’s voice, of luminous beauty.' - Jane Shilling, Daily Telegraph
'Hall's writing manages to combine acute sensitivity and daring. She experiments with voice and form, giving each of her characters a distinctive means of addressing the reader. ... Hall manages to juggle the individual trajectories brilliantly. Her writing is visceral and engaging, and the emotional lives of her characters are skilfully realised in this bright weave of disparate voices - for whom art is at once a way of seeing and a way of life.' - Natalie Sandison, The Times
'How to Paint a Dead Man will not disappoint her champions. It is a stylish novel, as replete with ideas as it is technically ambitious, interweaving four separate strands and characters across different times and places.' - Sarah Dunant, The Guardian
'A brilliantly written study of small and large artistic triumphs.' - Harriet Compston, Tatler
'For much of her new novel, Sarah Hall appears to be practicing a kind of literary verdaccio; going beneath the skin, delicately exploring the more sable recesses of her characters' minds ... One is left with the impression of having studied an image, brimful with radiant objects, above a verdaccio undercoat.' - Tom Bailey, Times Literary Supplement
'(Hall) has the linguistic energy and daring to conjure a novel out of the intensity of experience. ... She describes (it) with the precise acuity of a startled imagination. ... How to Paint a Dead Man is her finest novel yet.' - Steve Matthews, Cumberland News
'Sex, death and art: the materials with which Sarah Hall works are potent indeed. And, given a lyrical style so beautifully worked and savoursome you can taste it, this novel could have overwhelmed. Hall's book, however, slips cleverly between four separate narratives, allowing space for echoes to sound and tension to build. ... Each narrative is a suggestive, almost tactile construct, with Hall's talent evident on every page.' - Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail
'How to Paint a Dead Man is arguably (Hall's) best, and certainly her most ambitious. ... Hall has a sharp eye for the intricacies of human suffering, but, above all, her book lyrically affirms the depth and richness of our imperfect, astonishing lives.' - Jem Poster, Books Quarterly
'Mostly her love of language and her facility with it is repaid by sentence after sentence which sits up and sings. It makes for a sad chorus, but How to Paint a Dead Man is all the more affecting for it.' - Barry Didcock, Sunday Herald
'The relationship between art and death is the capacious subject of Sarah Hall's finely crafted new novel. ... Hall rarely indulges in any ponderous pronouncements about the nature of art. But the novel is a demonstration of the desire expressed by Giorgio that art should be both lyrical and formal. ... She accomplishes ... the conceptual ambitions of the novel with great skill: it is a tough and unsentimental exploration of the way art feeds on the dead.' - Jonathan Beckman, Independent
'Hall handles this fragmented material with aplomb, beautifully weaving together the four disparate narrative strands into a seamless exploration of the power of art to transform our lives' - Simon Humphreys, Mail on Sunday
'Hall is one of our most promising young novelists.' - The Times - Saturday Review
Introduction & News |
The Electric Michelangelo |
The Carhullan Army |
How to Paint a Dead Man |
The Beautiful Indifference |
Interviews & Profiles
Readings | Teaching | Journalism | Other Publications | Art and Song inspired links | CV | Photographs | Links | Contact Us