Deb's Reviews > How to Paint a Dead Man

How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall
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's review
Feb 06, 2010

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Read in January, 2010

I read this because it's about art and was highly recommended by Nina Sankovitch

Four characters whose lives interconnect relate their stories in four separate voices. An elderly artist in Italy, a young blind girl, also in Italy, a landscape artist in England, and an art curator in England who is mourning the death of her twin brother. The stories are very moving and there is some majestic prose.

But the novel lost power for me in the scattershot jumping around between voices. Sometimes that approach can work, but in this one, the lives and stories take place at very different times, and are told in different styles. The mourning art curator's story is told in the rarely-used second person narrative, which was kind of interesting. Another is told in first-person, the other two in third person. Anyway... I thought the connective tissue between them got lost. The stories would have held far more power, I think, had each been told in full without all the jumping around. I mean, after cycling through the other three stories, by the time I would come back to the blind girl in Italy, I'd forget, who was Thommaso? Mauri? Sandro?

A book that handled this sort of thing with much more success was The House on Fortune Street. And it did it by telling its four, interconnected stories as full stories unto themselves.
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