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Title: Burntcoat

Writer: Sarah Hall

Publishing House: Faber and Faber Ltd

Date of Publication: October 7th 2021

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Those who tell stories survive.’’

‘’Is it possible to be saved, like Scheherazade seducing the enemy with tales? Do stories make sense in a disordered world?’’

A tragic change inflicts the most important person in your life, your mother. A worthless father withdraws from your life. And then, you become an artist. You need to experience and express, to support and confess. You need to understand in order to find yourself.

Burntcoat. As in ‘’burn your skin’’. Burn your prejudices. Cleanse yourself of the ills of the past. Start anew. For as long as Life allows you to exist.

‘’We could talk about most things. But there were native compartments full of history I couldn’t access, and in which I would never belong; you contained seas that shared no tides here.’’

A young man from Turkey, Halit. His name means ‘’eternal’’. They fall in love at first sight. Yes, it can happen. In an instant, like a heavy blow of the wind. Like an earthquake that makes you question your entire being. When two people come together against the world, there is always hope for the future. Even if it is only reserved for the ‘’happy few’’.

‘’I’m still a halfling on the moors, finding berries, cupping from the underground river, making things out of reeds and thorns. The world exists through recreation, how it is perceived. You were a tear in all that, a gift of sudden truth. Because of you I could say, with certainty, I believe in it, all.’’

The quiet and restless beauty of the moors cannot hide that Nature has become a lethal threat. Yet love prompts you forward. A modern plague has been born and the land is heading back to the Middle Ages. A deadly virus is destroying the world but your heart opens. Violence, madness. Human beings become monsters. The spirit and soul of a house become a cocoon that will protect two souls that have found each other amidst unthinkable chaos. 

I cannot describe how deeply I connected with Edith and how piercingly I could understand the depth of her feelings. For her feelings are mine as well and I could ‘’hear’’ her soul as I can ‘’hear’’ mine. In a time when certain emotions are growing within me more and more, Edith’s voice became my voice.

*Necessary stop to rant: Those who complain about the supposedly ‘’strong’’ sex scenes? You must be nuns or ‘’strongly’’ repressed. Or simply ridiculous. Judging by the Goodreads mob that has been plaguing the reading community for a couple of years now, I’d go with the third option. So, please stop. You lower our IQ levels! *

As I was reaching the end, I started reading slower and slower. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to face the resolution that was looming. Threateningly. When a novel manages to make my heart ache (literally, I felt excruciating pain), then that is all I need to know that I have found a new literary home.

For personal reasons – which may become obvious to you when you read Sarah Hall’s masterpiece and my poor attempt to review it – Burntcoat became my home. Edith mirrored my own choices, its darkness and hope and love spoke to the very depths of my soul. For me, it was so much more than a book. It was the mirror to a new path that is currently beckoning to me. It was the part of myself viewed in an autumn dream born during the summer that recently departed. A dream that has become a beautiful, albeit difficult, reality…

‘’I never brought you to the valley. Lying on the bed, when we walked together, I described it, the sheer granite slabs, the fast brackish water and luminous moors. You never took me home either. Between coordinates is where we existed. Perhaps that’s true for all relationships. In the end, we want versions we can’t have, rearrangements in time. We want someone wise or well scarred from the other side to say how it is, and what will happen, to be re-childed.’’

Many thanks to Faber and Faber Ltd and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.