The Electric Michaelangelo … a review

I bought this book at the book fair because it was an old edition and was selling cheaply. I also read the blurb and saw that it was about the art of tattooing. Since it was something I had never read about before, I picked it up. Right at the onset, I was aware that the style of writing was very very different from ones I’d encountered in the recent past. This was the story of a young boy, who grows up in a seaside town in Northeast England.

You know the deal with Northeast England? It’s very grey… the sky, the waves, the wind, sometimes even the sand… it’s all grey. And this coast it very beautiful in this colour, it looks sad, beautiful, and mysterious. So, at this seaside town where people frequently come to spend their summers, our protagonist grows up. He is used to death from an early age too, the inn that his mother runs is a haven for people with sickly pulmonary diseases, who come to spend their last days here by the sea.

When the protagonist becomes a tattoo artist and later travels to America, what follows is a tale of art, emotion, love, and despair. What is the story of tattoos, who gets them done, who inks them in, who, why, what’re their thoughts… What is everyone thinking? How does art transcend an ocean? Is love like art? Is art love? The writing of Sarah Hall is beautiful, and it took me into tattoo parlours and hearts. I expected this book to end badly… but it didn’t. It just ended.

The only slight drawback is that there isn’t much in the way of action for the longest time and then a set of very action-packed pages! But it worked well for me because I enjoyed the descriptions as much as the events! If anyone has any other recommendations of books that are set against the backdrop of tattoos, I’d love to hear them…

Quote: “By midsummer of 1940 there were one hundred and nine tattoos on Grace’s form, from the soles of her feet to the base of her neck, so that she looked like a most extraordinary tree of eyes. And in retrospect, when Cy would try to relive his journey across her body and remember the revolution of its archaic landscape under his unyielding bevelled brush, perhaps those were the times he was making love to her after all.”