Monday, June 15, 2009

The Tattooed Map - Barbara Hodgson

The Tattooed Map
Barbara Hodgson
Raincoast Books
Copyright Date: 1995

According to the cover of The Tattooed Map:
Somewhere in Northern Africa, a woman traveler awakens with a mysterious mark on her hand, a mark that soon grows into a tattoo. So begins the enigma of The Tattooed Map, in which intrepid traveler Lydia journeys with her friend and former lover, Christopher, in search of antiques and adventure.

Lydia records her daily experiences in a journal, keeping track of hotel addresses and conversations, and pasting such flotsam and jetsam as maps, photographs, and drawings into her diary. She records her shock and dismay as the marks on her hand reveal themselves to be a detailed map of an unknown territory.

Later a cryptic Moroccan man explains the map's connection to a spiritual and physical journey she must make. Whey Lydia disappears unexpectedly, Chris takes up her diary to record his search for her - and for a way to unravel the riddle of the Tattooed Map.

In her rich and captivating first novel, author Barbara Hodgson guides us through the exotic world of Morocco, with its maze-like streets, musty shops, and unexpected secrets. Mysterious, enveloping, and thoroughly evocative, The Tattooed Map will make you want to embark upon a journey - if only you could be sure of your return.

I first read The Tattooed Map years ago, I guess it was when it first came out, although the copy I had then was a paperback. Somehow in the years between then and now though, the book disappeared. I forgot the title, and the author, although the storyline more or less stuck in my brain. I couldn't find the book again, no matter who I asked. Finally, I asked about it last month on the Name That Book group on LibraryThing. Within a day, as I raved about it in a post here, they identified both the book and the author.

Anyway, I finished reading it last night/this morning, and the story was as good as I remember it being. I still don't exactly know how to classify it though. I know it's fiction, but is it fantasy, teen, or something else?

Whatever it is though, the book is nearly unique in my experience. The story is written in the form of diary entries, and the pages are very lavishly illustrated with scraps of writing (things like names, phrases and words, schedules, photo descriptions), maps, snippets of this, that and the other and even little sketches. But most of them are key to the story as well. Looking at all of the scraps on the pages is certainly a fun part of the reading experience, and it was one of the things I remembered about the book in the years I was searching for it.

Also, there are no page numbers on any of the pages. If you're going to put the book down, either memorize the illustration on the page, or have a bookmark handy. On the other handy, I doubt you'll want to put the book down until it is done with.

By the time I'd finished the story, I still knew next to nothing about the characters, but it didn't matter. I was enthralled by their adventures, and I'd still like to know more. None of it is explained in any way, and I don't want to give more details and examples in case I spoil it.

The Tattooed Map is a moderately quick read, and, in my opinion, one that doesn't disappoint. I know that sometimes the anticipation makes a book a letdown when I finally get to read it, but not in this case.

If you can find The Tattooed Map, I recommend it for a read. I know I'm going to be keeping an eye out for any of Barbara Hodgson's other books, and if anyone's read any of them, I'd love to hear your opinions.

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