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Russell Hoban


Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
This is one of Hoban's gentler fictions, with a happy ending. It has three narrators who speak in turn: Sarah Varley, Roswell Clark, and Adelbert Delarue. Roswell and Sarah are both wounded people: Roswell drove while drunk and the resulting accident killed his wife, while Sarah was married to an unsatisfactory man who is also dead. Both Roswell and Sarah decide to have bats tattooed on their arms as emblems of good luck. Much of the novel is concerned with how their lives come to intertwine, each finding something in the other that had been missing for them up to now. Quite a lot of the story is told in flashback.

I found Adelbert a less satisfying creation than the other two. He is an enormously rich man living in Paris. He has inherited his wealth from his father, who acquired it in ways that are not spelled out but appear to have been shady or disreputable in some way.

Roswell is a designer of mechanical crash dummies, and Adelbert commissions him to produce several pornographic models. These are so successful that Adelbert becomes convinced that Roswell is going to become a first-rate artist, and he eagerly awaits the appearance of a masterpiece. As might be expected, this turns out to be an anticlimax.

There is plenty of humour in the book, superimposed on a deeper sadness. And Hoban has an opportunity to poke fun at much meretricious modern art.

%T The Bat Tattoo
%A Hoban, Russell
%I Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
%C London
%D 2002
%G ISBN 0747560226
%P 238pp
%K fiction

19 February 2012

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