Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

Burntcoat by Sarah Hall is the most exquisitely haunting story I’ve read in a long time.


Edith Harkness, a renowned sculptor, is living her last days and is reflecting on her life. Edith recalls when she was a young girl, her mother suffered a brain aneurysm and how it altered their life trajectory. To the days when she learned art techniques that would eventually lead her to win awards and more wealth than she knew how to comprehend. To the days when the world shut down, when she and her new love, Halit, went into lockdown together.

This story centres around a COVID-like virus; however, the virus presented here is more severe, and the public’s response is slightly more dangerous. Edith contracted the virus when it was first circulating, and now some thirty years later is suffering a relapse. The cause of her relapse is unknown to scientists, but what is definite is that Edith does not have long to live. As Edith reminisces on her life, she completes the finishing touches on her magnum opus, knowing that she will never see its final installation.

Thoughts on Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

Burntcoat is a slowly-paced literary work that captured my attention from its opening sentence. The timeline skips around as Edith recalls different instances, but it gets less confusing as the novel progresses. I’d recommend reading this in one or two sittings in order not to be thrown off by the time skips.

There are themes on desire, love, lust, art, family, grief, and sickness.

I knew I would like this book, but I didn’t think I would LOVE it. I also didn’t realize it would be so seductive and intense, but I am not complaining, not at all. The story goes to some very dark places. It steers clear of toxic romantically dark places, but rather explores grim and isolated ones that are quite graphic.

I won’t say more than that because I want this story to tear through the hearts of other readers.

This was my first Sarah Hall book, but it will not be my last.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Thank you to Faber and Faber for the arc provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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