Review: The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot

Written by Sharon Kernot, The Art of Taxidermy tells the story of a young girl named Lottie. The daughter of German migrants who suffered terribly during the war, Lottie is an outcast at school, with no friends other than her classmate Jeremy, a fellow outsider. Following the death of her mother, Lottie develops a fascination with dead creatures and sets about collecting them and trying to preserve them. But while her father is content to let his daughter nurture her scientific mind, Lottie’s Aunt Hilda is horrified by her disturbing new hobby and aims to put a stop to it.

Written entirely in verse, The Art of Taxidermy is a touching tale of death, grief and love. The story is a fast-paced and engaging read, and as Lottie’s world develops and readers discover more about her life through a series of cleverly constructed twists and turns, it’s almost impossible to put the book down. In relatively few words Sharon Kernot captures Lottie’s grief perfectly, her descriptive prose bringing the young girl’s world and memories of her mother to life. Even those who aren’t avid readers of poetry are sure to fall under Sharon Kernot’s spell as she skilfully conveys Lottie’s thoughts and feelings through lyrical verse as she tries to cope with her loss.

There are few young adult books available on the market which deal with grief and loss, and Sharon Kernot succeeds in conveying Lottie’s anguish and her struggle to make sense of her mother’s death. “I wanted to resurrect them all. I wanted them back breathing real air. I wanted flesh and blood, not ghosts.” Lottie sees the beauty in the dead creatures, and the book shows that while Lottie’s fascination with death may be seen as morbid and unnatural to some, it’s in fact a normal response to loss.

With beautiful imagery and a twist guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye, The Art of Taxidermy is a raw, heartbreaking yet hopeful read about a strong, young girl. An insightful look at how children perceive and deal with grief, the novel is sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever experienced a bereavement, and will hopefully pave the way for similar stories in the future.

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The Art of Taxidermy is published by Text Publishing. 

A copy of the book was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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