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Madame Zero: 9 Stories

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,009 ratings  ·  142 reviews
From one of the most accomplished British writers working today, the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of The Wolf Border, comes a unique and arresting collection of short fiction that is both disturbing and dazzling.

Sarah Hall has been hailed as "one of the most significant and exciting of Britain’s young novelists" (The Guardian), a writer whose "intelligence and ambit
ebook, 224 pages
Published July 25th 2017 by Custom House (first published July 4th 2017)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,009 ratings  ·  142 reviews

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Amalia Gkavea
‘’The morning is clear, a few high clouds banking on the horizon. Dawn has come and gone, but it still feels fresh and damp and clean. You cycle through the hospital grounds, past the crematorium, and across a small park, then along the river. The field is empty. The grass glistens under the wheels of your bike. When you look up there is a long dark vee of birds in the sky, migrating south.’’

A woman is transformed into a fox, leaving her husband struggling to understand and survive. A child
After a while, conversation got up about fears and phobias. Heights. Needles. Being shot in the back of the head in the cinema. Clowns' mouths.

Clowns' mouths?

Joe snorted.

Don't you mean just clowns, Zach? The whole clown entity is considered pretty sinister.

I do not, mate, Zachary said. I mean exactly their mouths. Their lipsticky mouths.
Like giant red vaginas.

Becca said nothing. Zachary mustn't have seen too many vaginas, she thought.

I've been meaning to read more by this author since I encoun
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2017
Another fine, unsettling collection of stories, perhaps not quite as visceral as the ones in The Beautiful Indifference, but if anything subtler and more imaginative. The story from which the title is taken, Mrs Fox, is particularly striking if a little reminiscent of Angela Carter - in this one a man deals with the metamorphosis of his wife into a fox, and the story is told in a matter-of-fact style that belies its fantasy element - this story won the BBC Short story prize in 2013 and it is eas ...more
I liked this collection of short stories, which is my first tender bite of Sarah Hall's writing. Nine stories over 176 pages, the shortest was under ten pages the longest over two dozen pages. In terms of the experience of reading they reminded me of being in an Art Gallery, looking at a room of intense, slightly dark baroque paintings, each story was the curator's explanation and elaboration of one of those pictures drawing my attention to small details, an item of jewellery, or does the narrat ...more
Peter Boyle
This is my first encounter with Sarah Hall and it left me wondering why I had taken so long. In an unsettling collection of tales all centred around some kind of transformation, this gifted author puts her dark imagination and considerable writing talents to wonderful use.

Convention tells us in which direction each story will lead but Hall confounds our expectations every time. Three tales in particular stood out for me. Later, His Ghost is a terrifying slice of cli-fi which imagines a world lit
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
I had read two of the stories in this collection before, Mrs Fox and Evie, both of which are fizzing with sexual animal energy (although the latter is terrifyingly disturbing) and quite brilliant. The rest of the stories were excellent, with not a bad apple amongst them. My favourites were Later, His Ghost, in which a young man fights the elements in a dystopian future, and Goodnight Nobody, in which a little girl sets off to take her mum's forgotten sandwiches to her work. Highly recommended, a ...more
lark benobi
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, faber, uk
These stories are obliquely told. Voice or mood is more important than narrative. They often don't tell much of a 'story' at all. Nevertheless these 'stories' are fully formed. They aren't fragments. They aren't even 'experimental' in the sense that the term is usually used. They left me changed for having read them. Nonlinear storytelling often leaves me bored at some point, however masterfully written--I seem to need narrative drive of some kind to fully hold my interest--but with these storie ...more
Jonathan Pool
*****Updated following Charleston Short Stiry Festival 2018*****

I read Madame Zero a year before getting the chance to hear Sarah Hall and Chris Power Mothers at the Charleston Short Story festival in September 2018. Great venue (in the ‘new’ restored, barn); great discussion (chaired by Catherine Taylor); insight and openness from Sarah Hall.

Sarah Hall made a number of points about her influences and her writing intentions- with particular reference to Madame Zero
• Of short stories- “A dark
Diane S ☔
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 review to follow.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
UPDATE: I've read a number of reviews, and apparently the two stories I liked best have been previously published. On the one hand, that's "money-grab" territory. On the other hand, I'm glad I was introduced to the two very odd, memorable stories here I liked very much: "Fox" and "Evie". Plus, there is a third story, "Theatre 6", here that I found particularly bothersome: it involves a fetus, ethics, and so much more and Hall never shows her hand so we never learn what she or other characters th ...more
This a solid short story collection. The set is not even when it comes to quality - but even the weaker ones are not really bad, they just don't compare that good to the best ones. And some of them are really, really good - stories that will grip you, tug at your insides and leave a mark. Sarah Hall likes to play with genre and form which was rendered well by Dobromiła Jankowska, the Polish translator. ...more
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
4.5 stars. Beautifully written collection. It's true the stories that bookend the collection are outstanding and perhaps outshine the others, but all are good to great. Mrs Fox (first story) resembles Lady into Fox ( down to being from the husband's p.o.v., the dismissal of the servant/cleaner etc., but Hall's take on it is sharp and telling. Evie (last story) also has a woman changing, but this time not into something else, but into a more sexual, uninhi ...more
I loved this collection of short stories. It's my first book by this author but it certainly won't be my last. I loved her writing. Hall's prose feels elegant and effortless in a way that belies the talent and skill behind the words.

Reading the stories made me feel contemplative and sophisticated and stylish. Themes include a woman who turns into a fox, a woman with a terror of heights who crosses a high bridge on a hike, a post-apocalyptic world with constant very high winds, and other diverse
Three corkers; two pretty good; four been-there-read-that. My favorites were the first and last stories, “Mrs Fox” and “Evie” (winner of the BBC National Short Story Prize 2013 and shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2013, respectively). Both concern a fairly average marriage derailed when the wife undergoes a transformation. In the former Sophia literally turns into a fox and her husband scrambles for a way to make the relationship last. “Whatever godly or conjug ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Dear Mr. Ghosh, here’s more of that climate change literature you were looking for. Have been in love with Sarah Hall since Daughters of the North, but haven’t kept up. Hall goes far beyond the tired dynamics of a specifically class-based interpretation of (hetero)sexuality and weaves in cults, gentrification, the environment, not to mention an apocalypse here and there, all of it wonderfully understated to the point where you have to double take partway through the story and thus, that sens ...more
3,5 - 4 stars

This collection was quite diverse: there was a woman who changed in a vixen, one whose behavior changed in a day, one who's afraid of heights. It was sometimes magical realism, "realism", dystopia. All of them definitely make the reader think, and it's quite depressing, but also hopeful sometimes.
My favorites are "Mrs Fox" and "Luxury Hour" - the irony of this one!!! I loved the strangeness and beauty of the first, the desillusion of the second.
And I love the cover!

I think I'll k
Pickle Farmer
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 stars. Enjoyed this! Was good bedtime reading (a short story per night). I liked the post apocalyptic stories the best, mainly because they were so out of left field. My favorite (beside the dystopic ones) was the one about the woman who went swimming and ran into her ex-lover (pools are such a good place to set a story!). Some stories I did not get at all, like the one set in South Africa, or the one narrated in second person about some kind of crazy medical procedure (maybe it wasn't goo ...more
Cherise Wolas
A very interesting story collection. My favorites were Mrs. Fox and Evie, women turning into other animalistic, physical beings. The writing is lovely and strong. Not all of the stories worked for me, but they were a pleasure to read.
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Wonderful and wonderfully varied. Shadowy themes and rich language. I found something to love in each one, but my favorites were "Mrs Fox," "Wilderness," and "Evie." That last one is gonna haunt me for a while. ...more
Quite enjoyed this, though I wouldn't say I fell in love with any of the stories. ...more
“Mrs Fox” ↠ 4.5 stars
“Case Study 2” ↠ 4 stars
“Theatre 6” ↠ 2.5 stars
“Wilderness” ↠ 3 stars
“Luxury Hour” ↠ 4 stars
“Later, His Ghost” ↠ 5 stars
“Goodnight Nobody” ↠ 3 stars
“One in Four” ↠ 2 stars
“Evie” ↠ 5 stars
Alex Storer
Disappointing, after the positive reviews and the book's own hype on the back cover. These short stories feel more like fragments of ideas or excerpts from longer books. The ideas and scenarios are very good, don't get me wrong, but something about it just feels incomplete and inconclusive.

Almost all of the characters are so vague, you can't even picture them in your head - nothing fleshed out - so this makes it a cold and clinical read. That said, it has some wonderfully dark and disturbing mo
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read and enjoyed a few of Sarah Hall's novels, but, if anything, I think the short format suits her more. These are darkly entertaining tales of wilderness, wildness and the wild within - from a husband whose wife transforms into a fox, to a man fighting for survival in a future age when climate change has caused winds that have devastated the country (this one was set in Norwich, where I live - looking out the window now I can just imagine it!), to a girl in the 1980s contemplating the kil ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, short-stories
The best things about Madame Zero, Sarah Hall’s short story collection, are descriptions of marriages, magical realism and dystopia. Unfortunately these elements are found only in a couple of stories and even if they were part of the story, the lack of plot really bothered me. My absolute favorite is the first one, Mrs Fox, which set my expectations high. But I didn’t feel much of a connection to the rest of the stories, although Hall does know how to write.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unique and beautifully written.

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and would like to thank Random House Publishing and Sarah Hall for the opportunity to read and review this set of short stories.
Definitely four stars for the ideas and the writing, because both are unique and very far above average, but something about this collection felt off, to me. It felt self-conscious, I think, and not in the safe way that Ali Smith does... More like, in the way that some films feel like Oscar bait, this felt like Man Booker bait. It was weird and upsetting, but was missing actual feeling, I think. Worth reading, still, but not a favourite, and I don't want to rush off and read everything else she' ...more
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
short stories are great because you whizz through them because they are more do-able at midnight rather than faced with a big fat volume and you win some you lose some. I liked the one about swimming but less so Mrs Fox. Interesting author, she'll do some more good stuff I feel. ...more
Sue Williams
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The title certainly doesn't give anything away. Madame Zero is a book of short stories, all quite different from each other. I enjoyed them all but my favorites were Mrs. Fox and also Later His Ghost. The problem I have with short stories is that I frequently want them to go on. My two favorites were no exception. I guess I will just have to craft a little more of each story for myself.
I won this book from a Goodreads Giveaway.

Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars, a rating I feel slightly guilty about. I read Hall's first novel Haweswater the week it was published and have read all her subsequent books. I think she, along with Jon McGregor, is one of the best British writers of her (my) generation, and I credit her book The Beautiful Indifference with igniting my passion for short stories and giving me the habit of reading a short story every morning for the past five and a half years. But occasionally I just don't connect with her writing - I ...more
Stephen Curran
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like an album front-loaded with its smash hit single, MADAME ZERO feels slightly off-balance. The opener, ‘Mrs. Fox’ - a tale of transmogrification which owes an obvious debt to Leonora Carrington and Angela Carter - is wonderful, relentless in its internal logic and defiantly elusive in its meaning. The central scene is beautifully wrought. After that the collection never quite reaches the same heights, which is not to say it is bad: it’s often great. The final story, ‘Evie’, is a chewy one. An ...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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