Recently widowed and increasingly lonely, Roswell Clark's life had arrived at the point when he felt he needed a tattoo. His ideal image was that of a bat featured on an eighteenth-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 - literally - when a fragment of an ancient crucifix 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, pornography and a charming tale of romance.
Published: 18th June 2012