The Beautiful Indifference

Sarah Hall, Author
Sarah Hall. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-220845-3
Reviewed on: 12/17/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
Book - 208 pages - 978-0-571-27850-3
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-06-220846-0
Paperback - 187 pages - 978-0-571-23017-4
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In seven scenic stories, characters reflect on the tumultuous moments of their lives while away from home. When capturing the self-reflective morass that people face when making tough decisions, Hall is at her best. In the title story, an author on a weekend getaway waits for her younger lover in her hotel room. He’s late, giving her time to replay their history and recall past conversations and decisions. Too nervous to read, she comes to the conclusion that, despite being a writer, she dislikes books. “Reading was an affirmation of being alone, of being separate, trapped.” Characters in other stories echo this sentiment. In “She Murdered Mortal Me,” a relationship sours during a South African vacation. A woman leaves her jungle bungalow and a brewing fight to walk the beach, haunted by fears of abandonment and rumors of leopards in the trees. Such psychologically charged situations provide opportunities for Hall to venture into contrived oversentimentality; but she never does. Stories begin without preamble, in the middle of scenes, momentum already building. Hall is in complete control, playing with the reader’s expectations at every turn, mirroring the unmoored state her characters all inhabit. An unassuming, tightly woven debut collection. Agent: Clare Conville, Conville & Walsh (U.K.). (Feb.)
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