The Art of Taxidermy Review

The reason I requested this book on NetGalley was that it explored taxidermy, something I had not seen before in YA literature. The cover along with the title suggested a certain kind of romanticisation, that one might see with a Studio Ghibli film, and in a certain way I was right.

The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A heartbreaking verse novel about love and death, grief and beauty, and the very individual ways we make sense of it all.

Lottie, the daughter of German migrants, develops a fascination for death after losing her mother at a young age. When Lottie begins collecting dead animals, her aunt tries to redirect her energies into more ‘feminine’ activities. But her father encourages her interest, recognizing a scientist’s curiosity.

Review

I loved the plot of this tiny novel (and it is tiny, I read it all in a couple of hours). The exploration of death through art and science, for taxidermy is definitely portrayed as both throughout this book is fascinating. I found the balance between life and death to be well struck and the effect on one on the other to be well explored.

It’s only death. It’s not the end. We all die.

While this book is written in prose (something I missed when first requesting it), I felt that it didn’t add to the story, but neither did it detract from it. The non-rhyming verse with uneven line lengths read like an oddly formatted paragraph, but I feel that this is due to my lack of understanding of poetry rather than a reflection on the author.

She is curious and she is bright.

The protagonist Lottie slightly reminds me of Scout (Jean Louise) Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, in her rejection of the ‘traditionally feminine’. The similarity is furthered with her Aunt not being content with this ‘unnatural’ behaviour and pressuring her dad to do something about it. However in this case, it is a direct reaction to her mother’s death rather than the side effect it is presented as in To Kill A Mockingbird.

It was not beautiful remade; it was awkwardly dead.

I feel like the cultural impact of death as it passed on from generation to generation is interesting in this book. It is clear that how Lottie deals with death is partly drawn from her dad, who has seen so much more death, and has more context for the losses in his life. Societal bias, racism and xenophobia play a part in this book, and may be hard for some people, but it is not explored in depth.

4 stars

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