Sarah Hall - The Beautiful Indifference (4 stars)

Sarah Hall - The Beautiful Indifference

The Booker nominee delivers a short story collection with an eye for spectacular imagery


Four books into her literary career and a Booker nomination in the locker (for 2004’s The Electric Michelangelo), Sarah Hall is being touted as one of the key British voices of her generation. There is little doubt that she can weave some spectacular phrases and glorious imagery into a narrative and while her focus on gorgeous language occasionally means that a powerful storyline or two is sacrificed, the reader’s memory still lingers on a beautifully-realised moment or skilfully-drawn character.

The Beautiful Indifference is a seven-story strong collection where nature with its horrors and unpredictabilites pulse throughout. There are foxes, bees, horses and dogs here, but human animals are the beasts put more purposefully under Hall’s microscope. Thwarted ambitions, bleak sex, disintegrating relationships and stripped loyalties fray at the edges of these mini-dramas, with the opening tale, ‘Butcher’s Perfume’ a suitable case in point. The brittle and violent Manda befriends the more winsome Kathleen who is drawn into a rural, isolated world that is both intoxicating and terrifying, with our delicate flower just as much lost at sea as the fearful rower in the book’s captivating finale, ‘Vuotjärvi’.

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