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The Beautiful Indifference Paperback – 5 Jul 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571230180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571230181
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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

The Beautiful Indifference is a new collection of short stories by Booker-shortlisted author Sarah Hall.

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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These seven stories are curiously old-fashioned, especially from a novelist usually so `cutting edge' as Sarah Hall. All involve `relationships', that perennial topic of short-story writers. In the title story, Hall has one woman tell another that `Relationships are all defined differently, aren't they?' Yet the relationships in Hall's stories are not particularly `different', `new' or unfamiliar. In the order in which the stories appear in the collection, we have: the two teenage girls who are seemingly incompatible but are `best friends'; `the older woman' waiting for her lover; the refugee from the North (and her violent husband) engaged in starting a new life in London; the bored housewife seeking sexual thrills; a couple's tiff on holiday and its consequences; a woman making something for a dying friend; and a lake swim where the woman is worried because the man has swum out of sight.

Hall is good on suspense and best at leaving readers to speculate on `outcomes'. For instance, in the title story, the central character has three boxes of painkillers in her purse. Does Hall's throw-away sentence, `Her mother was the same age', indicate an intention to commit suicide? Another remark supports the idea: `What would they say about her attire, if they found her in the bracken'? The story's ending is highly suggestive: `The hills were around her. She took up her purse, opened the car door. It was like opening a book.' The pared-down style may shock readers already familiar with Hall as the lyrical novelist of `Haweswater', `The Electric Michelangelo' and `How to Paint a Dead Man'. In these stories, Hall's short staccato sentences work well. They are ideally suited to a literary genre where concise expression and suggested meaning are paramount.
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