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The Bat Tattoo (Novel, 2002)

Bloomsbury summary:

Roswell Clark's life had arrived at the point when he felt he needed to get an optimistic-looking bat tattoo on his shoulder. His ideal bat image was featured on an 18th century bowl in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but strangely, on a visit to the museum, he encountered a woman called Sarah Varley, who was clearly compelled by the same bat. What did it mean? Sarah dealt in antiques and Roswell soon ran into her stalls in Chelsea and Covent Garden. His calling, which grew out of an obsession with crash-test dummies, was a bit harder to explain. It led from the invention of a popular children's toy to lucrative commissions from a Parisian sybarite for wooden working models with very adult moving parts. Both Roswell and Sarah had lost their spouses and were still grieving in their different ways. And then Christ started putting a hand in — not in the "born again" sense, but literally — a hand, a fragment of an ancient crucifix that fetched up in one of Sarah's antique lots. Between some compulsion conveyed by this hand and Sarah's natural urge to make improvements in people, Roswell's work took a surprising new turn. Russell Hoban's delicious new novel combines much about art — traditional and conceptual — with new angles on Christ, crash-test dummies, antiques and pornography — a pleasure on every page and as mysterious and uplifting as bat wings.

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Review quotes: 

"The Bat Tattoo isn't a heavy-hitter of a book: it doesn't punch you in the gut or make you laugh till you cry. But if you spend a little time with its characters you'll feel glad of their company, enriched by their encounters and discoveries, your awareness sharpened and deepened by their observations and reflections. The book sneaks up on you and works its magic on subtle levels not visible to the naked eye, at moments when you're not expecting it. It'll make you think and keep you thinking after you've closed the covers. In other words, it's classic Hoban."
- Dave Awl, The Head of Orpheus

"In The Bat Tattoo, Hoban's inquisition into embodiments of suffering and redemption often takes the more restrained form of a touring history lesson about the objects that have caught his eye in various churches and museums across Europe. But what better guide than he, whose meditations seem to stem from real creative rapture, and whose visionary interpretations are a joy to explore."
—The Times

"The Bat Tattoo completes a trilogy of masterful late works, developing themes and borrowing characters from these previous books while effortlessly surpassing both...The Bat Tattoo confirms that Hoban is still more than OK. He remains a magnificently angry, unashamedly dirty old man, whose surreal vigour shows no signs of giving out yet. Trust him, he's a weirdo. "
—The Guardian

"A deep and thought-provoking novel."
—Books Quarterly

"Humorous, playful and very enjoyable."
—Daily Mail

The Bat Tattoo borrows Turtle Diary's technique of switching back and forth between the voices of two main characters who see some of the same events from slighly different perspectives, and whose paths become ever more interwined.
To Gundel

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