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How to Paint a Dead Man
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How to Paint a Dead Man

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  862 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
From Sarah Hall, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Daughters of the North and The Electric Michelangelo comes the Harper Perennial paperback original novel How to Paint a Dead Man, a daringly imaginative tale in which multiple lives are woven together through the prism of a still life painting. Moving from Italy to England, spanning nearly half a century, and bringing ...more
Paperback, 306 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2009)
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Kirsty Darbyshire
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paperback

I loved this. The writing is fabulous - full of sentences that make you sit back and marvel at their ingenuity and the images that they conjure up.

The chapters of the book flip between four different viewpoints. Each is set in a different place and time stays tightly with a single character and each is very individually written with no chance of a reader muddling up the writing - the headings announcing which character was in this chapter were totally superfluous. The distinctive voices were in

Kathleen Maher
Sep 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who love fiction as art and do not demand a high-action plot.
Recommended to Kathleen by: Ed Champion
Sarah Hall writes about four characters in this novel; each with her or his own section and voice. Some of them are related but their relation scarcely affects the differing narratives. The writing is lush throughout; the pace and thin plot-lines real to life; the construction a classic four-frame, one per character, with alternating narratives.
The writer's remarkably fine style fits and evokes the art of still-life painting to reveal each character's life. And their differing stories all focus
Oct 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a beautifully written book. The language thrilled me, frankly, and I'm sad it's over (fortunately the author has written other books). Hall's intertwining of 4 separate stories that take place at different moments in time yet are interactive was a delight to read.

Despite the melancholic to sadness of the book, it made me want to head outside and walk in the park, in the woods, past the neighborhood school and hear the life bubbling out from the young kids gamboling there. A desire to go
Bonnie Brody
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. Hall's fourth book. Her second book, 'The Electric Michelangelo', was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

This is a book about art and artists, about life and grief. It is about "how we investigate our existence and make meaning and teach one another in small and large ways". The book is like a chorale woven of four parts, each part a
switterbug (Betsey)
An art curator wracked with grief over the tragic death of her twin brother; an aged, dying artist of still-life bottle art; a landscape artist; and a blind florist tell their inter-connected stories in alternating chapters of this stunning, imaginative novel. Spanning several generations in Italy and the U.S. (primarily rural Florence and San Francisco), the reader is taken on a journey of ideas and transported to the inner chambers of the heart. The story contemplates the nucleus of art, the e ...more
Sep 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clever concept novel in linking what seems like four disparate characters together in the story that gradually unfolds through four separate narrative strands and across two eras and countries: England and Italy, the novel deals with the eternal themes of love, loss, life and art.
However, I found that I couldn't like the grief stricken and destructive main female character (whose name escapes me) but that didn't matter as the other three were warmer and had more interesting back stories.
Just superb; have a full review on FBC, while a minireview here:

After learning about How to Paint a Dead Man in the Booker Longlist, its cover and blurb attracted me so I bought it on publication day here in the US last week and I read it soon after, this being a novel that once you immerse in you cannot leave and read anything else, at least fiction, once it ends you are sad that it did so and want more, so you have to reread it at least once...

"How to Paint a Dead Man" is a deceptively short n

The sophisticated, poetic writing, and multiple narratives are impressive. It's refreshing to read a book that isn't predictable or pretentious.
Mar 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ik ben afgehaakt, ik kon mijn aandacht er niet meer bijhouden. De vier verhaallijnen raakten elkaar amper en de opeenvolgende, gekunstelde volzinnen begreep ik vaak niet. Een zin klonk vaak reuze-interessant maar wat er nou eigenlijk stond? Heb het Peter-verhaal via hoofdstukken skippen nog uitgelezen, maar dat had ik ook niet moeten doen.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: here, 2017
beautiful. ending(s) a little bit too neat for my taste, but otherwise a wonderful read.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I struggled with the last two books I read, so I really needed a book that would absorb me. Scanning the shelf of "waiting to be read" books I saw this. The author's name looked familiar and when I realised she had written The Electric Michaelangelo I thought this was a good bet.

I was completely absorbed, read it over the Bank Holiday weekend and it has left me with lots to think about.

It brings together four different stories over a period of about 40 years, all involving artists in one way of
Nov 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Maya Panika
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an unusual book. Four individual stories told chapter by chapter, each chapter – not each story - following from the next. For forty pages, I thought it was unbearably pretentious but then the story within the stories began to unfold – you begin to see the tenuous threads that connect one to another. These threads are very slight, sometimes just a single word or sentence within the whole story that suddenly clues you in to why X connects to Y and informs and influences Z.

The style is ver
I really enjoyed ... or is that appreciated ... this book. The interweaving of the lives of four people associated with painting over two countries and several decades is achieved very cleverly with some wonderful description. I especially loved the part where Susan discovered her twin brother had been killed: the evocation of grief has rarely been done better. I also liked the chapters about Annette whose coming to terms with blindness was also described vividly and convincingly [though I was l ...more
Kasa Cotugno
There are four disparate strands to this muscular rope of a book, apart at the beginning but ultimately woven together to create a story that promotes the importance of art in life. Each strand is set in a different time, written in a different style, the author challenging the reader to make the connections and draw their own conclusions. There is Suze's story, told in the second person, which is the most compelling, seemingly the centerpiece of the narrative. The story of her father, Peter, is ...more
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book, I am sticking to a new reading philosophy. Read at least 100 pages of a book before I decide to drop it. Starting off, I found this one quite confusing. 4 different narrators, who don't seem to be connected at all. Some in the past, some present, different narratative techniques (third, first, etc). I just couldnt keep track and really thought this was just a book too deep for me! I'm happy to report that at about page 80, everything clicked. It is beautifully written an ...more
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it
I am not alone in thinking that although the writing was "painterly" and very beautiful this book had too many flaws for our book group to give it more than three stars. This is the average as some wanted to give it 2.5 and one (she who nominated the book 3.5). Yes the writing was evocative and painted vignettes however the structure of the book, became to confusing and at times feeling contrived with the links between stories. The biggest disappointment or flaw was the ending, it left me strand ...more
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I plucked this off the shelf in the library not really knowing what to expect, but the blurb sounded interesting. I'm so glad I took the chance as it was simply stunning! The writing is beautiful, and clever, I am in awe of authors who can weave words into such amazingly vivid pictures. As someone else said, it made me want to walk out my door and experience life and all it's lovely sounds, smells, colour and art!
Oct 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I tried to hate this book. It started out slowly; the plot lines were confusing. By the end, I loved it. It's a strange book. But it infused itself into me. I noticed this especially throughout Annette's story. By the end of her sections, I was seeing the world with her disrupted and dying eyesight. This book is so well-written. Needs to be read again. The connections between characters take time, but are perfectly rendered.
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, fiction, favorites
Beautifully constructed, both sad and uplifting. Four interwoven characters slowly seep into you as you read about them and their art and lives. It's like reading a silent movie.
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cait, Miss GP, Heather
Recommended to Jennifer by: June
Shelves: 2012-books, owned
Hall is bold and brave in her storytelling. It seems nothing is off-limits. Some moments might make you squirm in your seat with as raw emotions, feelings and actions are explored and acted upon.
Amanda Wells
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Big themes in a book that snuck up on me. I was in the midst of it and wasn't sure how I felt about it one way or the other. It was quiet, in a way - very internal in its description - but suddenly I felt strongly attached to each perspective, and horribly sad amongst a couple of the described tragedies.

I wished only for a stronger resolution, but I think it does suit the tone of the book, how it ended.

Might write more later once I've thought more about it... this is a thinker, that's for sure
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This novel follows four different narrative strands which are cleverly woven together. Though I acknowledge that this is very well written and that a lot of the prose contains some beautiful images, I just didn't fall in love with it. I was interested in how they were connected and enjoyed letting that aspect unravel but there were several points where I thought if I never finished it I wouldn't really mind. Don't get me wrong, it was a good book, just for me, not a great one. A good holiday rea ...more
Shangeetha Selarajoo
I enjoyed the way the how the characters were interwoven with each other. Though I felt the Italian characters were written more romantically than the British characters. It's almost like going for a vacation and romantiscing the vacation despite it's flaws. The British characters were written with more flaws and scrutinized under harsh microscope.

Overall it's an okay book.
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Curious and compelling. Infuriating at first but it all comes together at about page 100; by the end you almost want to go back to the beginning and read it from the start now you know what it is all about.
Nov 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good! However I felt it failed to make ends meet and follow up on set-ups.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book a bit hard to follow. I had questions at the end that remained unanswered. I wanted to give it more stars but just could not do so.
Brooke Givens
May 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't finish it. I had no idea what the characters were droning on about.
Aug 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I participated in a roundtable on this book at Return of the Relucntant:

Here was my take in the conversation:

I waited until this morning, until I turned the final page in How to Paint a Dead Man, to take in your perspectives on the novel. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it, especially because in many ways they seem to differ from mine. For example, I seem to be unusual in that I very much enjoyed Sarah Hall’s book, without qualification.

Here’s why.
Mar 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In dit boek wordt het verhaal verteld van vier verschillende personen die in eerste instantie niets met elkaar te maken lijken te hebben. Ook vindt het verhaal niet in hetzelfde jaar plaats: zo is de schilder Giorgio al overleden tijdens het verhaal van de rest van de hoofdpersonen.

Vertaalde passage uit de flesdagboeken vertelt over hoe Giorgio terugkijkt en zijn laatste dagen bewust probeert te maken. Over zijn herinneringen aan het lesgeven aan Annette en het ontvangen van brieven van Peter. P
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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
More about Sarah Hall...
“You’ve been wondering lately when the moment is that somebody is truly lost to you.” 18 likes
“Of all the conditions we experience, solitude is perhaps the most misunderstood.” 17 likes
More quotes…