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Author: Sarah Hall

Reviewed by JULIANA LOH

Tattoo, art and love survive through tumultuous times as all the elements come together in Sarah Hall’s The Electric Michelangelo. This novel pays homage to the art of tattoo and delves into the absolute precision of the artist.

Cyril Parks lives in Morecambe with his mother who specializes in caring for consumptives. Cyril helps her out, but later takes up the opportunity to exploit his artistic talent by apprenticing himself to the infamous Eliot Riley, a freehand tattoo artist renowned for his skill with needle and ink.

Riley is obnoxious, violent and always drunk, but excels in his craft, which he deems both erotic and artistic. When Riley dies after a violent attack, and with Cyril's mother already dead from cancer, Cyril sets sail for America and sets up his shop ‘The Electric Michelangelo’ on the shores of Coney Island. There, he meets Grace, a gypsy traveling with the circus on whom he tattooes eyes all over her body. Sarah Hall’s poignant tale ends leaving Cyril’s future at an open end and defying all the negative stereotyping of tattoos. The permanent marks once used for branding slaves take on new meanings in praise of tattoo artists in The Electric Michelangelo.