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 to , spanning nearly half a century, and bringing together the lives of four disparate characters, How to Paint a Dead Man is Hall’s fierce and brilliant study of art and its place in our lives.
Stunning visual descriptions link the stories of four artists in crisis in Hall's fourth novel (after Daughters of the North), but marginal, cross-generational relationships are what ground the book. Giorgio is a well-known painter and hermit in Italy in the 1960s, the near-blind Annette his favorite primary school student. Peter is a 50-something landscape artist in England, and Peter's daughter, Susan, a talented photographer and curator. Giorgio has cancer and for his final days tackles one last painting of his constant subject, colored bottles. Soon after his death, Annette tends his grave, innocent and fearful and now completely blind, fearing imaginary things like the Bestia a demon that is depicted in her church. Thirty years later, Peter, who corresponded with Giorgio, is pinned under a boulder near his cottage, and contemplates the haunting relationship he had with his ex-wife, while in present-day London, Susan searches for feeling (through sex) after the sudden loss of her twin brother. Hall gracefully conveys a sense of the eternal through these imaginative, disconnected creatures who share the same unrelentingly contemplative disposition.