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Review by Tracey Sinclair.
Sarah Hall’s latest outing continues to garner plaudits – most recently it won the £10,000 Portico Prize for fiction – and such honours are richly deserved. A haunting, moving collection, these finely crafted short stories showcase the skills of a talented prose stylist at the height of her powers.
Cumbrian-born Hall is at her best when capturing the region of her birth and the first entry in the book, The Butcher’s Perfume, is undoubtedly the strongest, an unforgettable tale of young friendship and retribution the Cumbria hills. While it’s a collection that works best read in stages – powering through the whole book in short order can make it feel slightly ‘samey’ – but given breathing space, these stories stylishly evoke the inner lives of their female protagonists, whether contemplating an illicit liaison, distracting from the truth of terminal illness with a love affair or rebuilding a life broken by adultery.
As with most collections, not every piece works perfectly, and none quite capture the soaring, breathless highs of the opening tale, but all are worth reading if only to admire Hall’s faultless prose and elegant turn of phrase.