Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Tattoo” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  152 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
TATTOO continues the earthy, honst, and ultimately triumphant story begun by Earl Thompson in A Garden of Sand. It is an epic account of a generation--America in the 1940s.
Paperback, 688 pages
Published January 21st 1993 by Carroll & Graf (first published January 1st 1974)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Tattoo, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Tattoo

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 273)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 19, 2011 Szplug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Leaving behind his crumpled mother with competing feelings of disgust and longing for her glory days of radiant, knee-weakening red hair and run-free hose, Jack flees his taboo-transgressing penury in order to inveigle his way into the United States Navy and swap the dust and grime of urban-hopping for that of the salt and spray of chasing islands. The hardships and hard knocks, con jobs and concupiscence, back-slapping and backhanding, grifts and griefs, sad sacks and sack-hopping of A Garden o ...more
Dec 24, 2009 Quentin rated it really liked it
A true dime store novel -- and I mean that in the best possible way. No pretentiousness here.

One of those wonderfully lurid bits of pulp that could only be pounded out by some guy chain smoking Chesterfields, while swigging from a fifth of scotch next to the old Remington; chock full of gritty violence and hot 'n' steamy sex. Makes ya nostalgic for a time when the public devoured books like this, rather than vampire novels, or touchy-feely chick lit.
Craig Kelly
Dec 29, 2010 Craig Kelly rated it it was amazing
Earl Thompson is a great writer.
Thierry Sagnier
Apr 13, 2015 Thierry Sagnier rated it it was amazing
I’ve read the book at least four times, and Thompson remains one of my main inspirations. I think he’s one of America’s greatest almost forgotten writers. Someday college courses will be devoted to his work.
Fred Lehman
Great reading. One of the best I've ever read. It's so easy to follow, and relate to the main character. Interesting to the point of picking it up first thing in the morning.
Derek Perumean
Jan 02, 2015 Derek Perumean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I took 5 1/2 years of English in high school and I learned one important lesson: high school English sucks! I came away from all my honors courses thinking that if guys like Hemingway hadn't shot himself or Fitzgerald hadn't drank himself to death I'd be forced to kill them myself. Then when I was in the Navy I was stationed in Bremerton, WA for awhile. Right outside the base on my way to the ferry terminal I'd stop at a cool little comic book store that also sold used paperbacks (Sadly, it's go ...more
Paul Lavrakas
Apr 13, 2015 Paul Lavrakas rated it it was amazing
I read this book almost a generation ago and it remains burned into my memory. I hope to live long enough to see the great Earl Thompson get the honor he deserves.

If I met some young person who was worth the effort, I'd shove "Tattoo" into one hand and "On the Road" into the other, saying, "Kid, this is all you need to know."
Nov 27, 2011 wally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thompson
just finished w/a garden of sand...jacky, 14 in may in that one, determined to join the marines, on his way back to this one.... here at the 186 page mark and the war is over.

this one starts out w/this line:
that germany had surrendered smacked of yet another damn thing too keep the boy from glory.

and i'm reminded of john knowles's story, a separate peace.

about the only thing the two stories might have in common is that boys want to go to war, want to be men, want to establ
Jul 05, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it
Started this morning and just finished. This book could be the 'you' version of Edward Fortyhands. Incredibly well-written and moving, with many sections about love and loss and how to fuck it all up that cut you deep.
Paul B.
Jun 23, 2011 Paul B. rated it it was ok
The entire book is apparently an excuse for the protagonist to bed as many ladies of the night as possible. Repeated failures and disappointments make for a supremely depressing and frustrating novel, which I guess is what Thompson was going for here. The coming-of-age aspect if engaging, and it is compelling to watch this guy try to grapple with a broken world in a narration that is gritty, graphic and no-holds-barred. Nonetheless, despite a few rather sublime parts this novel is a grungy traip ...more
D.H. Benson
Dec 14, 2011 D.H. Benson rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I first read this book at age 18. It was unlike any book I had read. It was explicit, graphic and shocking. I couldn't put it down. Earl Thompson wrote in a frank manner about subjects and topics that people did not want to acknowledge. The cast of characters is rich, varied and bizarre. The book is a journey in time from Wichita, Kansas to China after World War II to the Korean War.
Robert C.
Jul 01, 2013 Robert C. rated it really liked it
I read this book in 1977, when I was about 19 or so. In the Navy, and if I remember right, alot of time on my hands. It was a thick book,(paperback) and I remember it taking quite awhile to get through it. 35 years later and I can still recall some of the things I read. It made a profound impact on my life at the time.
Jun 13, 2012 Dennis rated it it was amazing
This book just blew me away with its stripped-to-the-bone un-nostalgic look at a young man's growing up from Depression poverty and seeking refuge in the Navy, a little too late for war but ready for life. The sex and realism really come through - nothing glossed over here.
Jan 02, 2011 Viki rated it liked it
Lengthy story about a young boy and his dysfunctional family. Jack joins the navy at the end of WWII to try to escape his horrible upbringing. One sordid adventure after another takes Jack through disappointment and disillusion with life. Well written but very graphic.
Brad Iles
The last of my collection of 20c flea-market books. It would have had more impact if it was a lot shorter, a lot of it was quite repetitive.
May 22, 2012 Kolan rated it really liked it
read when I was 14. quite lurid and made an impression
Alex Webb
Apr 21, 2008 Alex Webb rated it liked it
Very long but pretty good
Michelle marked it as to-read
Jun 04, 2016
Sondra Spalding
Sondra Spalding marked it as to-read
May 11, 2016
Darin marked it as to-read
May 05, 2016
Darren added it
May 05, 2016
Shannon Clayton
Shannon Clayton marked it as to-read
May 01, 2016
Terrie Tackett
Terrie Tackett rated it it was amazing
Apr 26, 2016
Gemma Rospendowski
Gemma Rospendowski rated it it was ok
Apr 20, 2016
Veronica marked it as to-read
Apr 02, 2016
Mark Robinson
Mark Robinson marked it as to-read
Apr 01, 2016
Simon Mleso
Simon Mleso marked it as to-read
Mar 31, 2016
Jim Gibbons
Jim Gibbons marked it as to-read
Feb 17, 2016
Fisch added it
Feb 15, 2016
Sally Anne
Sally Anne rated it it was ok
Feb 09, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • History of My Life, Volumes 3 & 4
  • Here's to You, Jesusa!
  • Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour
  • The Bridge in the Jungle
  • Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K'ang-Hsi
  • Gordon
  • The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton
  • Mieke Maaike's obscene jeugd
  • Young Henry of Navarre
  • El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin
  • Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II
  • The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey Through a Century of Biology
  • The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos
  • Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century
  • Far Away and Long Ago
  • Norwood
  • Six Records of a Floating Life
  • The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo
Earl Thompson ( May 24, 1931 – November 9, 1978 ) was a leading American writer of naturalist prose. Nominated for the National Book Award for A Garden of Sand and chosen by the Book of the Month Club for Tattoo, Thompson died suddenly at the peak of his success, having published just three novels—the fourth The Devil to Pay, was published posthumously.
More about Earl Thompson...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »