**Disclaimer: I received an early copy of The Art of Taxidermy from NetGalley and Text Publishing for review purposes. Thank you to them for this opportunity.
The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot is a young adult novel in verse. It falls into the genre of historical fiction as it takes place in Australia is a time period that follows World War II. This book comes out on August 23rd, 2019. I gave it 4 stars on GoodReads.
Here is the summary from GoodReads:
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 am always so impressed with novels in verse. It amazes me the way that an author can convey so much emotion and details about what happens based on so many less words than the typical book contains. However, sometimes details can be lost and things like flashbacks can be confusing. I had some moments like that with The Art of Taxidermy. Certain things that I thought had had happened, hadn’t and there was the occasional flashback that did confuse me. However, Kernot’s use of language was absolutely gorgeous. She had some really interesting figures of speech and I really liked the way that she played with words.
The story itself was interesting. It is primarily about death and grief and Lottie, the protagonist/narrator, dealing with these things and ultimately her fascination with death and decay. It was really cool to me that Kernot was able to make a story about death so beautiful. I really enjoyed watching Lottie grow and learn about herself and her interests, and it was really interesting to watch her learn about her family.
The story was unique for me, because it occupied a perspective that I don’t often read about or hear about. The story, as mentioned previously, takes place in Australia after World War II. Lottie’s family is German, and they immigrated to Australia prior to the war because they didn’t like how things were going in Germany. The story discusses how Lottie’s father and Opa were put into an internment camp called Loveday during the war, simply because they were German. The book doesn’t go in depth with this, but it’s interesting to read about the lingering damage it left the family. Additionally, Lottie is treated poorly at school because of her German heritage. Personally, I have German heritage. My Oma and Opa immigrated to Canada after the war, so it’s a bit of a different experience and I was never bullied for having German heritage, but I could understand the reactions she had to how she was treated. It was just a point of personal connection I had with her.
The description and imagery in this book is really good. There was a lot of rather morbid imagery because, as one may have guessed from the title and summary, Lottie is quite fascinated with death and becomes quite interested in the idea of taxidermy. At one point she decides to become a taxidermist and tries to learn how to do it on her own. There is a lot of talk of her finding dead animals and wanting to keep them, so if you’re squeamish, this probably isn’t the book for you. However, even just reading about Lottie’s fascination is fascinating. It’s not a topic that I particularly relate to so it’s really interesting to get a different perspective on it.
Ultimately, the depiction of grief is the real standout from this novel. Lottie’s mother is dead, and so is her opa and other figures in her life. Lottie has to learn to come to terms with these things, and that’s what the novel is about. However, she’s not the only one as the remaining members of her family also need to learn to cope with their losses. These moments in the novel are particularly poignant.
So, while this wasn’t my favourite novel in verse that I’ve ever read, it was a lovely, well written story that educated me and it made me feel. It was a quick read as well, and the pacing was really good. So when August 23rd comes around, you should consider picking yourself up a copy. Thank you again to Text Publishing and NetGalley for this opportunity, and thank you to you for reading this.