Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Art of Taxidermy

I do love a verse novel, so I was very excited when I spied The Art of Taxidermy in the Text Catalogue earlier in the year. I eagerly awaited the publication date, and then ordered it from my local bookshop. I picked it up this week. I've really been in a bit of a reading slump for the past few months (and a blogging slump too), and I thought a verse novel would be good for what ails me. It was. 

The Art of Taxidermy tells the story of Charlotte, Lottie, living in South Australia with her father. Her mother has died and her Aunt Hilda hovers closely, helping look after both Charlotte and her father. Lottie is 11. She is a rather sad and lonely child. Alone at school. 

Back there with the kids
who didn't talk to me

was like being at a funeral
every day. 
Lottie becomes obsessed with death.
At the age of eleven
I fell in love
with death

She starts collecting dead things - frogs, skinks, lots of birds, even a red-bellied black snake. But of course all this creates a "fusty fug" in her bedroom and attracts the attention of Aunt Hilda, who is far from enthusiastic about Charlotte's new hobby. 

On a visit to the museum with her scientist father Charlotte sees taxidermied specimens for the first time.
They are perfect-
perfectly dead. 
Not shrinking?
Not disintegrating?
Lottie becomes even more interested in the dead, subsuming her grief for her mother. 
I pulled on layer after layer of her:underwear, stockings,shirts and skirts,coat and shoes.I wrapped myself in herfolded myself upuntil it feltlike a warm hug.
Besides the more obvious themes of grief and death, there are themes of friendship, loneliness, glimpses of Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal relations with white Australia, and the history of German immigrants to South Australia. The book is also full of appreciation for our Australian wildlife and in particular our wonderful birds. 

The Art of Taxidermy was shortlisted for the 2017 Text Prize. The gorgeous cover and illustrations are by Edith Rewa

Sharon Kernot is a South Australian author and poet. The Art of Taxidermy is her second novel. 

Teaching Notes

1 comment:

Brona said...

I'll have to watch out for this one Louise - you and I are a bookclub of 2 for verse novels!!