Author: Sarah Hall
Publisher: Custom House
Released: November 2, 2021
Burntcoat wins the award for one of the most graphic novels I’ve read in 2022. And I don’t necessarily mean graphic in the gory sense. It’s a bit hard to describe – but anyone who has read Sarah Hall’s latest novel probably knows exactly what I’m talking about.
A virus is spreading through the city and possibly the world. Edith Harkness, a famous sculptor, shuts herself into her studio in a move that feels all too familiar. Sheltering alongside Edith is her latest lover, Halit.
During her time trapped within her studio, Edith is forced to explore profound and dark concepts such as life, death, and transformation. All while struggling to accept the truth of what this virus brought with it – change.
“I have this feeling – of being unplugged and too far from the socket and what remains is a red warning bar.”
Words cannot accurately describe how Burntcoat made me feel. On the one hand, it feels painfully timely, with poignant messages woven into a carefully written novel. On the other hand, it’s pretty graphic, morbid, and a little too on the nose at times.
The fact that Burntcoat is about a virus when many of us are still coping with the pandemic makes it hit all the harder. Naturally, so do the isolation and sheltering in place elements. But it’s more than that. We’ve all recently been forced to face concerning thoughts such as our long-term health, death, and the unknown. Just to name a few of the mental health struggles plaguing many people right now.
Okay, the very detailed descriptions about the virus and what it does to the body also hit hard. Perhaps a bit too hard? All I’ll say is do not read this book before any meal, trust me on this. There are zero punches pulled.
I’m still not entirely sure how to feel about Burntcoat, but honestly? I think that’s the point.