This month's book: 'The Electric Michelangelo' by Sarah Hall

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The Independent Culture

Here's a chance to shadow the Man Booker Prize panel, which last week selected Sarah Hall's second novel, The Electric Michelangelo, for this year's long-list. I ought perhaps to declare an interest, as last year I sat on the Commonwealth Writers Prize jury that first gave Hall - born in Cumbria in 1974 - international recognition for her debut novel of Lakeland life in the 1930s, Haweswater.

Here's a chance to shadow the Man Booker Prize panel, which last week selected Sarah Hall's second novel, The Electric Michelangelo, for this year's long-list. I ought perhaps to declare an interest, as last year I sat on the Commonwealth Writers Prize jury that first gave Hall - born in Cumbria in 1974 - international recognition for her debut novel of Lakeland life in the 1930s, Haweswater.

I think her one of British fiction's most powerful and promising new voices in many years. You may, or may not, agree. The Electric Michelangelo extends her canvas, although it begins on home turf; or rather, on the home shores of Morecambe Bay, where Cy Parks grows up with his hotel-keeping mother in the rowdy and salty air of a working-class Edwardian resort. Cy finds an outlet for all his skills and dreams as a virtuoso tattoo artist, and Hall makes of this rackety game a model of creative endeavour and ambition.

The novel's second act takes Cy across the Atlantic to the buzzing boardwalks of Depression-era Coney Island. Here, the small seaside world of sensation and sensuality mingles in the spray with booming themes of love, war and history.

On 21 September, the Man Booker judges will decide whether the "Electric Michelangelo" deserves to carve himself a place on the prize shortlist. You can inscribe your judgement straight away.

'The Electric Michelangelo', Faber & Faber, £10.99

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