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How to Paint a Dead Man: A Novel Paperback – September 8, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“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.” (The Sunday Telegraph)
“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")
“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.” (BookPage)
“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.” (Washington Post Book World)
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Top Customer Reviews
How to Paint a Dead Man weaves together four different stories: a photographer coping with the loss of her twin brother, a quirky landscape artist in a dangerous situation, a dying man who paints bottles in seclusion, and a blind girl. Each story introduces different philosophical questions about art (i.e., what is it? Does it mean anything? What makes an artist?) all of them compelling and never entirely answered.
Susan speaks in second person, which I've always found to be an engaging, albeit presumptuous, POV. When she and her twin brother were children, she couldn't distinguish herself from him. She has a hard time figuring out who "I" is. And after his death, by using "you" she distances herself from her bereavement; the second person also intimately connects her to the reader. She neglects her photography and strikes up an affair. In her urgent need to be outside of herself, she creates and destroys indiscriminately.
The landscape artist, Peter, falls between two boulders while trying to paint on a mountainside. While stuck, he reflects on his previous disastrous marriage and his life as an artist. Peter is an extremely odd character; the way Hall handles Peter's scattered personality and darkly shrouded past seems like commentary on modern day artists.
Giorgio is an old man and a very famous painter of bottles. He lives hermit-like on a hilltop and has infrequent visitors. His guilt about his Jewish wife's death causes him to become absorbed in his work.Read more ›
While Hall's writing about art shows her love for the medium, her real subject is human feeling, and especially the way emotions can be aroused and distorted by the passage of time, the loss of possibilities, the ending of a life. Four protagonists take turns in the spotlight in a repeating sequence of short chapters. There is Giorgio not-quite-Morandi on his hilltop in Italy, working even as his death approaches. There is Peter, a landscape painter of rocks and mountains in the Northwest of England near the Scottish Border. There is Susan, a successful photographer in London, shocked by the death of her fraternal twin brother. And there is Annette Tambroni, an Italian teenager whose own sense of vision turns inward as she goes inexorably blind.
At first this is all you know. You have no idea why the author chose these four people and not others. You have only a dim sense of the time-frame.Read more ›
I called it a perfect novel, because there is no sensationalism, stock cliches or melodrama here. I defy many writers today to pull it off. I won't go into the themes of aesthetics, perceptions, grief, fear of death or loss of innocence. Suffice it to say that even the secondary characters are essential and believable. Having read the book three times in the past year, I intend to do so again.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Been a superb restaurant since I first went there in early 2000...Published 14 months ago by Jimmy Mac
I had soem problems with the structure of the book at first but I was
able to see some of the relationships between the stories.
I first read Sarah Hall's Electronic Michelangelo and really loved her characters - odd people, but still, ones you feel you might really meet on the street or in your daily life. Read morePublished on March 3, 2012 by Fenimore
Sarah Hall writes about four characters in How to Paint a Dead Man: A Novel (P.S.); each with her or his own section and voice. Read morePublished on January 28, 2012 by Kathleen Maher
Sarah Hall turns out industrial quantities of metaphors, most of them absurd, in her attempt to tell us everything she knows about art and life and death. Read morePublished on September 24, 2010 by alphaboy
When I turned to this latest, it was on the encouragment I had drawn from enjoying what was the very first Sarah Hall book I read. Read morePublished on September 6, 2010 by CharlieMAgne
Sometimes one is privileged to read a book that is so brilliant we hope it never ends. Such is the case with 'How to Paint a Dead Man' by Sarah Hall. This is Ms. Read morePublished on February 24, 2010 by Fairbanks Reader - Bonnie Brody
This is a really enjoyable book. It's not a quick or easy read, but if you're interested in art, love, coincidence (or is is something more?), you'll enjoy this. Read morePublished on February 5, 2010 by Alexandra S. Morgan