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The Beautiful Indifference

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  479 ratings  ·  91 reviews
A new collection of short stories by Booker-shortlisted author Sarah Hall.

From the heathered fells and lowlands of Cumbria with their history of smouldering violence, to the speed and heat of summer London, to an eerily still lake in the Finnish wilderness, Sarah Hall evokes landscapes with extraordinary precision and grace. The characters within these territories are real
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Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 7th 2012 by Faber & Faber (first published November 17th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,903)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
A teency request: if you are an author with a totally forgettable name (no offense, I have one too), put a little elbow grease into titling your books, man. Do it for us, the just realizing we're not immune to the aging process types with paranoid predispositions, who already find ourselves scouring WebMD every time we have a cramp or an itch, who spend some nights rocking back and forth dwelling about how our years of reckless abandon are finally catching up with us, so that when our memories c ...more
christa
I like my lit a little mucky. I like to wince, look away from a page, close an eye and sneak a peek. I like it when pretty is hip-checked, when a scene gets manure bombed and when a character has a phlegmy cough. I like real, I like raw, I like dirt under fingernails, arm pit hair that can be braided and toenails that clack against a wood floor.

And now, because of all of that, I like Sarah Hall.

She’s not necessarily messy-messy. She’s not like a Japanese horror novelist or anything. But she ha
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Lou
Now this author can write and she can pack a potent voice, a great narrative.
She has written these short stories all with characters who are female and they are told in first person narrative. Visceral and affecting, light and dark, beautiful and ugly, she passes your time bringing voices of various people in society from different walks of life and different pastures. Inner-city to country she tells of their dilemmas their loves and she can write on and and on. A writer I anticipate to deliver
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Bonnie
A copy of The Beautiful Indifference was provided to me by Harper Perennial/Edelweiss for review purposes.

'A Beautiful Indifference' is a collection of seven short stories that had been previously published in various forms and have been honored for awards on their own. The first story, 'Butcher's Perfume' was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2010 and 'Vuotjärvi' was long-listed for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2011.

I've only recently started readin
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Antonomasia
[3.5] Sarah Hall is a sorceror when describing the life and land of her native Cumbria. I am there; I can feel the biting breeze whipping hair into my eyes.
Her descriptive powers are still pretty strong in other places but not so great that I didn't long for some humour and a sense of the ridiculous that, as in much cold, detached literary fiction are too obviously absent.

The two stories set in Cumbria are unquestionably my favourites. 'Butcher's Perfume' is a rollicking start, a story of a tee
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Halina J J
Short stories are not really my thing. I'm not one to appreciate plot strands left unresolved, introduced ideas left undeveloped, ambiguous endings where "I" am meant to decide what happened. I don't like short stories. I carried on thinking this until I was about halfway through this collection, by which point the richly detailed, evocative and clear as glass narrative had won me over. The sense of something disturbing just beneath the surface and a malevolence which would never be realised in ...more
Robert Lomas
This book is a collection on seven short stories, each set in a different place, each featuring the viewpoint of a different woman at a key stage of her life, and each conjuring up a different emotion.
The title is taken from the second story which is set in Yorkshire. The twist in the tale (sic) is its unexpected, yet bitter-sweet, ending. Only when you read the last paragraph do you realise the inevitable destination of the story and the real meaning of the title.
I bought this book after hearin
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Patrick
A short, pleasant collection of intriguing stories. After ‘The Electric Michelangelo’ and ‘The Carhullan Army’, I count Sarah Hall amongst my favourite of modern British fiction authors. This volume doesn’t quite measure up to the heights of those novels, and in fact I was tempted to write a snarky review along the lines of ‘another book whose title reviews itself’. But that wouldn’t have been quite fair: beautiful as the writing sometimes is, I certainly wasn’t indifferent to it.

Or rather I was
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Alan
very good bunch of stories. I think I preferred the ones set in Cumbria (where the author comes from) packed with wonderful dialect with meanings you sometimes have to guess at: 'glisky', anyone? Or 'brant shoulderblades'? Some are more straightforward: 'As warm as sotter loaf', the 'dogs sooling about in the undergrowth'. These (2) stories have energy, warmth and drive - the first story 'Butcher's Perfume' recounts a schoolgirl's friendship with the Slessor family; They came from gypsy stock, s ...more
Dan Purdue
Sarah Hall's writing is clear-eyed and unflincing. She finds beauty in the most unlikely places and draws out the ugliness and decay lurking beneath the surface in all kinds of human relationships. Her prose is unsentimental but sensual, and her descriptions are vivid and often visceral. She writes about people but the animalistic side of human nature is never far away.

There are seven stories in this collection, the first and longest of which is "Butcher's Perfume", a story that was shortlisted
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Tuck
very nice short stories, mostly set in uk, but also farther afield, south africaish perhaps? one thing i like is her dialogs do not have quote marks and no he said she replied she sighed he huffed
most is all just a smooth flow, like a bbc documentary narrating the dissolution of your midlife love affair.

"she murdered mortal me" set in africa, is perhaps my favorite as it reminds me of a very old fashioned style of short story with a nice twist and one could very easily find it in something like
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Melanie Zhang
I was actually very skeptical when I started this book (I've never really been into short stories), but within seconds I was hooked. These stories are exceptional. They aren't for everybody - nothing much happens, in the sense that there aren't any grand story arcs, but each story is so atmospheric and evocative that I didn't much mind. The writing alternates between quietly despairing and beautifully lush, with a distinct dark undercurrent to it, something raw and sexually charged. The moment I ...more
Catherine McNamara
Beautiful language, resonating settings, plausible and gutsy. The stories have a strong female sway, and a gritty contact with the earth. Lots of odours, blood, suspended happenings that unreel purposefully. I like Hall's tight and ungiving endings, although she often wishes bad things upon her male companions who lightly tred through the book. This is a book of lyricised punches, cold shadowy places of water, of earth, of insect-ridden cities. Harshly contemporary.
Eli
Tragic, pretty, colloquial, submissive, English gothic.

A bit intellectual-woman-wanking-in-the-bath for me, but still pleasant for someone in the target audience, which I assume I am, just about, in the Venn diagram of women, depressives and wankers.
Kathryn
Dec 20, 2012 Kathryn marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I am thrilled to have won this book! My daughter and I both will enjoy this one. Can't wait to post my review.
Katie Trenerowski
I received this book from Goodreads First-reads giveaways, and while I thought the author was well-written and captivating, I though it was a terrible book. Let me explain.

The book is composed of many chapters, each being a mini-story (short story). And each short story's subject matter is appalling. One story is about a married woman joining an erotic sex club, another about a dog mauling a boyfriend, another about a lover losing her soul-mate because he goes for a swim and never returns, anoth
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Paul
A good book of short stories. There is something about the Brits. They really know the Queen's English, and some of its orphans as well. I see lots of good reviews on Goodreads, almost all better than I could do, so I will just recommend it and let things stand at that.

Oh well, be sure to read that story about the mysterious dog on the beach. And the one about the traveler family that beats everyone up. And the one about the lake that turns red. And the one about the dead bees ..

paul pekin
CuteBadger
This book is a slim collection of short stories on a variety of themes. An underlying thread seems to me to be nature and civilisation vying for the upper hand both in terms of countryside v city, but also within individuals.

I most enjoyed the first story 'Butcher's Perfume' set in a wild Cumbria. The narrator, schoolgirl Kathleen, observes her friend Manda's notorious family and in doing so illustrates the history of the area and how human relationships work against an often bleak backdrop. Men
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Becky
I discovered this writer when I read one of her stories in the Granta Horror issue. The Beautiful Indifference includes that story (more suspenseful than horrific) and six other of Hall's haunting stories, each featuring a strong female protagonist. Hall's writing is of the reach-out-and-grab-you-by-the-throat variety. She writes about love and sex and loss in a way that is intimate, poetic, and heartbreaking. After reading the first story in this collection (which I had borrowed from the librar ...more
Wally
Seven short stories focus on the lives, loves, and losses of contemporary British women, often with intense psychological studies of the characters. In one, a shy young woman meets and befriends the toughest girl in town, along with her horse-rearing family. When the narrator witnesses the cruel treatment of a horse by a neighboring farmer, the family takes her under their collective wing as they set things right without help from the law. In another story, a couple travels on holiday to Africa, ...more
Cheyanne
I was not familiar with Sarah Hall's work before and I liked some of the stories more than others. The first story in the collection, about a teen-aged girl's fascination with a tough family of horse trainers in the far north of England was excellent. The title story was less satisfying, the tone too artfully detached. Other stories in the collection fell between those poles, but when I finished them I was interested in checking out Hall's novels.
Jason
Gave up. The style and language used were convoluted. The stories (or the first 40 pages mind you) felt belabored, messy, and constricted. The further I went into this book the less I imagined a reward. It's received many accolades, but our personalities conflict.

Worth a revisit since it's been a bit since I first picked this one up.
Vicki
The title pretty much sums up one's response on reading.

The first story was mildly engaging. The others - meh. Indifference was the most one could muster. And the over-writing cause actual stomach pains in places.

Probably useful to read during root canal if the anaesthetic doesn't work.
Gabriel
I had that "solid Granta or Tin House fare" reaction for most of this: not bad, not really memorable either apart from "She Murdered Mortal He" and "The Nightlong River," both of which I liked pretty well. "The Agency" was the only one I actively didn't like and had a pretentious, slightly sketchy Mary Gaitskill vibe. Overall though... I dunno, the Granta blur. I got kind of frustrated with the thread of apathetically treated creepy male-female relations I see in a lot of hip "confessional" wome ...more
Alison Clayton-smith
I bought this book a while back partly because I grew up in Cumbria and I wanted to see how she evoked the place. I've been saving it to read, so maybe my disappointment was because I was expecting too much from it. She's definitely an excellent literary writer, with interesting ideas, but the stories didn't have enough soul for me, the emotional connection was lacking. I'm not sure why, and maybe I'll read it again some time to see if i react the same - many of the stories leave questions. The ...more
Natalie Cozens
Sarah Hall's writing is unique,dark and raw - I enjoyed it right to the last page.
Pamela Scott
I thought this was a great collection of stories. I really liked Hall’s style and her use of language. The opening story, Butcher’s Perfume is one of the best stories I’ve ever read. I loved every sentence. It’s a brilliant story about how hard it is to be a teenager and gives great insight into friendship. The title story was beautiful and sad and sort of lovely. I loved the way Hall writes from the perspective of an older woman reflecting on her sexually charged relationship with a much younge ...more
Liviu
A collection of short fiction by Sarah Hall, the book (US edition 2013, UK edition 2011) has two absolutely outstanding stories:

- the title story about a late 30's-early 40's successful writer with a possibly life threatening disease having an affair with a young doctor some 15-18 years her junior, affair which is quite sensual and is consumed in meetings on her literary tours

- The Agency which is about another woman in her early 40's, this time with a loving husband and two kids, but who feel
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Shuriu
"Butcher's Perfume"
The Slessors were even-weighted and indestructible . They'd paired by feral instinct, like wolves among us. If either of them stepped outside the marriage to a different bed -- and there were those who gossiped about Geordie's liking for young stable hands, his chance bairns -- then it did not threaten the union. They had produced between them three boys and a girl, all fit, all feisty. And there was a sense there might have been more, they had it in them still, he at almost
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Kathleen Jones
This has to be five stars because of its literary quality, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the rating implies. In fact, my reaction could be summed up by the title - 'beautiful indifference'. This is a collection of prize-winning, much applauded stories. They certainly gleam - sharp-edged, flawlessly designed - as ‘showing’ as video clips, the language deliberately challenging, the situations diverse. But, for me, there is something so self-consciously intended about them, it takes away some of ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Sarah Hall took a degree in English and Art History at Aberystwyth University, and 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
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More about Sarah Hall...
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“At night, in the garden, it occurs to you that it might have been your heart that left you as you reached the capital. Your heart might not have travelled well, closed up in its cavity, quivering and gnawing at the bars of your ribcage during the commute. It might be tracking north now, along edgelands, past spoil-heaps and stands of pylons, under motorway passes, back to the higher ground. Back to him.” 0 likes
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