The Tattoo Artist

The Tattoo Artist by Jill Ciment.

This summer I read Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment. I enjoyed it and wondered what else I could read. Well her novel “The Tattoo Artist” caught my eye, but we didn’t carry it. So I requested it on Interlibrary Loan. I really enjoyed it and passed it on to my sister to read.

The main character, Sara meets would-be-artist Philip Ehrenreich who introduces her to the New York art scene.  They fall in love, marry and devote their lives to art. Things are going well until the Great Depression hits.  In September of 1939 they pack a pup tent, air mattresses, a lantern and a portable bathtub and hop a ship to the South Pacific to collect island art. And not unlike Gilligan’s Island, what was to be a short visit turned into a thirty year stay. Stranded in the Marquesas Islands (sounds like an episode of Survivor) their lives are changed when the island inhabitants drug them and forcibly tattoo their faces.  The first time Sara sees Philip his eyes are swollen shut due to the six tattooed stripes running down his face. Even his eyelids were tattooed.  With opportunities for rescue going awry, they begin a permanent stay on the island. Sara and Philip start to tattoo each other. After a tragic event, Sara begins to really use her body as a canvas.  She inscribes symbols for the various events that have happened in her life. It was interesting to see how she is accepted by the island residents and later is thought of as one of the elders.  30 years later the island is visited by representatives of Life magazine. They bring numerous magazine covers to show her what’s been happening in the world for the last 30 years. They want her to come with them to New York and want to feature her in the magazine.

As I mentioned at the start we don’t carry this book, but it is available through Interlibrary Loan.  Hopefully we will be purchasing our own copy.



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