I’ll happily admit that I bought this book on the strength of the cover (and the title) and I’ll also admit that I was happily surprised by this story. It tells the tale of Cy, a young lad from Morecambe who somehow ends up an apprentice to the town tattooist, and tracks his life through the deaths of his mother and his mentor, his life in Coney Island, his love of an eccentric beauty called Grace and the final circle of his days.
The personalities in the book are mostly larger than life but never seems so in the context of the novel, each one slotting into place and bringing insights when required. The story is more of how easily a life can slip by without noticing, and that despite the wonders around us we rarely seem to notice them until something extraordinary happens. It urges us to take a chance, act on desire and not to be haunted by the past. Simple enough psychology for sure but it aids the flow of the narrative well yet never descends to be yet another maudlin tale of a life wasted, instead you revel in the wonders around Cy, the very things he takes for granted.
There is one choice in this book that I’d question, Grace is a bit too enigmatic to really allow you to become attached to her but maybe that’s the point, her eccentricity keeping both reader and lead character at arms length.
I don’t think this will be for everyone, but don’t let the topics involved put you off. Ohh and if you have read Sarah Hall’s previous novel it’ll be a change from that (so don’t let that put you off either).