I am aware that I sound like a broken record but once again I apologise for taking longer than I would have like to review this captivating book. Huge thanks to Kate Burton for my early copy of Burntcoat by Sarah Hall.
Given what we have all been through these past two years there is going to be an inevitable rise in ‘Pandemic Stories’. It is inescapable and unrealistic to expect that artists of all kinds won’t want to record and respond to these world changing events. We are after all, living through history.
But as you would expected from established and talented Cumbrian author Sarah Hall her approach to this telling is unique, heartbreaking and painfully beautiful.
Hers is the story of Edith, talented sculptor and her lover Halit. Immediately but newly connected when the first lockdown begins, the pair hide from the world in her huge studio, Burntcoat. Their world is one of fear but also of love, of discovering each other and building a new and strengthening relationship.
This part of the novel captures beautifully the intensity and unreality of those initial lockdown days. The writing is sensual, vital and pulls at the edges of a collective experience.
Edith’s story is largely told in retrospect. When we meet her she is preparing for her death. Her work, waiting in the studio below is her testament, but it is her love for Halit and the short time of their togetherness that she returns to again and again.
Sarah Hall is unique in her story telling. Her boundaries are wide but her edges are sharp. This story cuts through experience and turns the collective experience of the pandemic on it’s head.
This one is going down in history.