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
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-
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.