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An electrifying story of passion, connection and transformation from 'a writer of show-stopping genius' (Guardian).
'Dark and brilliant.' SARAH MOSS
'A masterpiece.' DAISY JOHNSON
'Extraordinary.' SARAH PERRY
'Searing... Sarah Hall's best work yet.' JON McGREGOR
'One of the best books of the year.'
'Hall has set a bar . . . Finely wrought, intellectually brave and emotionally honest.'
In the bedroom above her immense studio at Burntcoat, the celebrated sculptor Edith Harkness is making her final preparations. The symptoms are well known: her life will draw to an end in the coming days.
Downstairs, the studio is a crucible glowing with memories and desire. It was here, when the first lockdown came, that she brought Halit. The lover she barely knew. A presence from another culture. A doorway into a new and feverish world.
'Sarah Hall makes language shimmer and burn . . . One of the finest writers at work today.'
'Wonderful . . . The writing goes down smoking hot onto the page.'
'Transporting . . . A beautiful novel, full of heat and darkness.'
'I can think of no other British writer whose talent so consistently thrills, surprises and staggers . . . With Burntcoat she has solidified her status as the literary shining light we lesser souls aspire to.'
Hall (Sudden Traveller) delivers a powerful story of art and love set during a global pandemic. Edith Harkness, 59, is a famous and reclusive artist living in a massive industrial studio, Burntcoat, in an unnamed town in the North of England. She is coming to terms with the resurgence of the "novavirus," which is like Covid-19 but worse. Several years earlier, it killed her lover, Halit, and a million others in England. Edith knows she is dying but spends her time finishing a final commission, a national memorial for the dead that she feels "cannot possibly comfort." Edith grew up alone with her mother, Naomi, a famous writer who had to relearn how to speak and care for herself after an aneurysm. Edith thrived in her solitude as a child but when she went to art school, she faced the misogyny of teachers and was physically abused by a boyfriend. As her mother tells her, "Those who tell stories survive." In a shifting timeline, Hall works back to just before the pandemic when Edith meets Halit. As England goes into lockdown, the couple finds bliss at Burntcoat, but soon are both ill, and she has to care for him as the hospitals are full. Hall brings perfect harmony to the sweeping themes, such as a pandemic's impact on culture and the difficulties faced by a woman in the art world, and the prose, rich in description, is never overdone. This will serve as a benchmark for pandemic fiction. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency.