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The Beautiful Indifference [Paperback]

Sarah Hall
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

5 July 2012

From the heathered fells and lowlands of Cumbria with their history of smouldering violence, to the speed and heat of summer London, to an eerily still lake in the Finnish wilderness, Sarah Hall evokes landscapes with extraordinary precision and grace. The characters within these territories are real-life survivors, but whether it's a frustrated housewife seeking extreme experience or a young woman contemplating the death of her lover, dark devices and desires rise to the surface. And the human body, too - flawed, visceral, and full of emotional conflict - provides a sensuous frame for each unfolding drama.

Uniquely disturbing and deeply erotic, this collection confirms Sarah Hall as one of the greatest writers of her generation.

The BEAUTIFUL INDIFFERENCE includes 'Butcher's Perfume', which was short-listed for the BBC National Short Story Prize in 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571230180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571230181
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Seven skilfully adrenalised stories, precise and sensual, in which the scent of violence is a constant.' -- Helen Simpson, Guardian Books of the Year

'Reaches a standard that makes award juries sit up and take note . . . Hall's voice is strong and distinctive even, in single, elevated passages, exquisite.' -- Lionel Shriver, Financial Times

'Shows her characteristic ability to cause disquiet ... Hall's sharply perceptive observations strike like slaps ... There is a deeply sensual element to her writing: it is visceral and instinctive ... It's like sinking into a Rothko painting. Language is used inventively. These are stimulating, unsettling stories... [they] intrigue and mesmerise.' -- Independent on Sunday

'Hall evokes her landscapes with bewitchingly vivid prose. Her writing is gutteral and visceral, and her characters are raw and sinewy ... Every one of the seven tales here delights and disturbs in equal measure. The Beautiful Indifference illustrates that short fiction is indeed a finely wrought art form, and Hall is an artist of considerable and concise skill. Each story is a gem, but together they form a collection of astonishingly sensuous power ... Hall is a writer of both rare vision and talent.' -- Sunday Times

'These stories constantly thwart one's dramatic expectations - and are all the more dramatic for it ... This prose, particularly when used to convey the bleakness of the Cumbrian landscape, is wonderful ... She does darkness so very well.' -- The Times

'Sarah Hall's four novels have already shown her to be a writer of extraordinary talents, whether in the rough magic of The Carhullan Army, about female resistance in a near-future police state, or the passionate intertwined narratives of art and identity that make up the Booker-longlisted How to Paint a Dead Man. With her first short-story collection, her writing takes another leap forward, into a landscape entirely her own ....The erotic charge of Hall's writing, its fierce physical power, coexists with her characters' sense of separation: each is a world entire, and they retain their depth, their mystery.' -- --Justine Jordan, Guardian

'Seven luscious, sensuous stories from one of our most talented writers, exploring the erotic, violent relationship between men and women in exquisite, painterly prose.' --Claire Allfree, Metro

'Sensual and striking prose, Hall is at her best capturing wild landscapes.' --Independent

'Monstrous events happen offstage over the course of these seven stories ... but their force is felt all the more powerfully through the precision of Hall's prose.' -- Guardian

'Immaculate collection ... [the characters'] inner monologues are articulate and precise, but the words seem to spring from the characters' raw emotional states rather than considered reflection after the fact, lending them immediacy along with shades of darkness and doubt.' --The Herald

'Sarah Hall's beautifully savage prose works so well because of her love of language . . . Hall's way with words gives[the stories] a brutal freshness that makes them feel new and urgent.' --Independent on Sunday

Book Description

A new collection of short stories by Booker-shortlisted author Sarah Hall.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but can leave you indifferent. 23 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first book of Sarah Hall's I've read. It's a collection of seven stories, all from a female point of view and set mostly in the North West.
She is obviously a writer's writer.
Words are used precisely, carefully; now and then, over-preciously. She uses phrases like 'Benthic silence' and words like 'anomic'.
Her prose is serious, humourless, highly in tune with the natural world. Mink, dogs, horses, foxes, bees all feature heavily.
Her interests are in relationships, mostly between people like doctors, lawyers, academics, journalists and, I'm afraid to say, authors (though she does not write about work). The kind of people who go on holiday to slightly off beat places ( two of these stories are of the 'couple on trip get into trouble' ilk). This allows her to write sentences such as: 'She thought about the blue Arabia crockery they had seen in the antique market by the quay in Helsinki' and 'the air was heavy, greenly perfumed and the avian calls were loud and greasy.' (Greasy?)
These people's marriages have become loveless or mildly abusive. Her female protagonists run away from them or pay for the love they lack in plush hotels. It's hardly revolutionary, but it is exactly described.
Sex is an activity of the utmost earnestness: her protagonists suffer 'peculiar tearful euphoria in climax': 'the world before and after was incredibly vivid' she writes. 'The heat and the smell and closeness of him was peculiarly surrounding, amniotic. ' No one has the perfectly alright, occasional sex that sustains most relationships. Even the aged gypsy couple in the long, opening story, 'Butcher's Perfume' have unashamedly noisy couplings that turn the atmosphere 'gamier'.
The author writes little dialogue, much description.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No indifference to this beauty 3 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A beautiful series of short stories with landscapes at their heart but with a range of themes and styles. All are thought-proking, challenging and unique, many about dark desires, some sexually blunt at times. A few are less perfect than the others in terms of satisfying the reader, finishing brusquely, but Sarah Hall's writing is so earthy, so Anglo-Saxon in its language that I find them all refreshing. Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful tension - gripping 5 Jan 2012
Having read all of Hall's work, I can say this is her best yet, and the reviews from all the major broadsheets seem to agree. These stories tell of human relationships and place them in such wonderful, real settings. The language is beautiful - as Lionel Shriver said in the FT - you find that every word you have to look up is well worth the effort. When reading Hall's work I always find myself marvelling at how she finds these words and uses language so beautifully. Here evocations of places that I know, including the Finnish countryside so well rendered in Vuotjärvi, make the reader feel great emotion, and feel that you are there.
For me the stand out piece is the Vuotjärvi as the tension builds and builds to a nearly unbearable degree by the end.
There are all types of characters in these stories, from the utterly un-posh in Butcher's Perfume, for example, to some slightly more middle class figuers in some of the other stories. It is part of Hall's amazing artistry that she can deal with rough people and rough settings with such amazing artistry. I don't feel that it matters that characters in these stories are not watching 'the X-Factor', these are stories about all types of people that are told with love, skill, precision and artistry.
When I recommend Hall's work to friends, as I frequently do, I always tell them that here is a writer who is a true artist, not someone just writing some story. Buy this book!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, Evocative and Compelling 17 Dec 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is a collection on seven short stories, each set in a different place, each featuring the viewpoint of a different woman at a key stage of her life, and each conjuring up a different emotion.
The title is taken from the second story which is set in Yorkshire. The twist in the tale (sic) is its unexpected, yet bitter-sweet, ending. Only when you read the last paragraph do you realise the inevitable destination of the story and the real meaning of the title.
I bought this book after hearing it reviewed on the BBC Open Book programme. The discussion of the theme of the book, great issues of life, death and love, caught my attention and I downloaded a sample to my Kindle. The introduction to the first story, set in the moorlands of the Scottish borders brought the landscape and its inhabitants to vivid life on the page. I was hooked and quickly downloaded the whole book.
Together the stories create a patchwork of people and places, all living in their own worlds yet all concerned with the basic questions of living, loving and dying. This little book is a most enjoyable trip into the mind of woman writer who will stir your deepest feelings if you dare to read her.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting advance 28 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As the heading indicates I think this book marks an interesting advance in Sarah Hall's work. Her grounding in rural life in Cumbria is still very apparent but it no longer dominates her work to the same extent and generally her use of language is stronger and more complex. She has always been a very thoughtful writer but now she writes with confidence and maturity and has produced some very fine stories in this collection. For people familiar with her work I recommend this book very strongly and those who who are new to her work will find it easy to engage with these stories - I feel she is becoming a more commanding presence in contemporary literature.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars unusual stories
I have not finished it yet but the stories are most thought provoking, specially, The Agency which makes you think!
Published 6 months ago by Mary A. Dearlove
3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously old-fashioned and mainly mobile free stories...
These seven stories are curiously old-fashioned, especially from a novelist usually so `cutting edge' as Sarah Hall. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Stewart Robertson
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
I personally feel Sarah Hall has wrote this superb. Sarah has well constructed this novel by adding landscape to tell each short story which location the characters are. Read more
Published 11 months ago by ireadnovels
3.0 out of 5 stars Left wanting more.
I was slightly disappointed with 'The Beautiful Indifference'. I had thoroughly enjoyed 'Haweswater' and 'The Electric Michelangelo', but was left with a feeling of incompleteness... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Tigercat
5.0 out of 5 stars great Sarah Hall
arrived in time at the right price
would recommend to all my friends and Sarah Hall fans everywhere
enjoyable read
Published 16 months ago by suzie Q
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly disturbing
Hall uses landscape as an evocative tool in all these stories. Her writing is fiercely intelligent and she always reaches for the word/description that is fresh and new. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Valerian
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable bleak short stories
These seven stories span a range of times and location (Mozambique, Finland, Cumbria, London). Relationships gone wrong, mostly, and their inherent riskiness are at the heart of... Read more
Published 21 months ago by William Jordan
4.0 out of 5 stars The Beautiful Indifference-Sarah Hall
Some critics have panned this book-but for me the stories were fascinating and so well written. Sarah Hall's style is scholarly and she uses language thoughtfully and to great... Read more
Published on 14 Feb 2012 by Mr. C. R. J. Castell
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling and beautiful
I found it hard to put this book down. It is beautifully, precisely written in an almost poetic style: the author is not afraid to search for and use words that we won't have come... Read more
Published on 31 Jan 2012 by Victoria Blessing
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