Book Review

Review: The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot

I had very little idea about what this book would involve (apparently I requested it based on the cover – oops) but that meant that I adored it even more. I powered through it in a single evening and every word was wonderful.

The Art of Taxidermy

Title: The Art of Taxidermy
Author: Sharon Kernot
Pages: 240
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: 13th August 2019

Lottie collects dead creatures and lovingly cares for them, hoping to preserve them, to save them from disintegration. Her father understands—Lottie has a scientific mind, he thinks. Her aunt wants it to stop, and she goes to cruel lengths to make sure it does.

And her mother? Lottie’s mother died long ago. And Lottie is searching for a way to be close to her.

The Art of Taxidermy is a heartbreaking verse novel exploring love and death, grief and beauty, and the ways we try to make sense of it all.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise this novel was written in verse when I started reading it. However, I loved it. The plot itself is very simple – a young girl is struggling to cope with her own grief, and that of everyone around her – and collects dead things, partly out of morbid fascination, but also out of a desire to beauty even in death.

The simplicity (and the heart-breaking sadness that goes with this) is perfect for verse, where the bare bones of a story, and emotions, can be presented in very few words, but in a way that is even more meaningful for the reader.

Or at least, that is how it felt for me.

I loved the slow reveal of the depth of grief that Lottie is experiencing, as well as the added grief and experiences of her own family. During the novel, Lottie is 12-13 years old, which is a time when a young person might experience such adult traumas, but not know how to process them. Lottie’s own way of processing these things may be both morbid and macabre, but it works beautifully.

It may be that this is partially due to how short it is, and each small poem could easily be read as a standalone, but I loved the thread of the plot and emotions running through them all. I would gladly read this again.

For me, this would not have had the same impact if it had been told in prose. The Art of Taxidermy came as a real surprise, and I loved every word of it.

5 stars.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Text Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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