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Landscape of Life and Hope: Review of The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot

July 23, 2018

Lottie has an unusual hobby – she likes nothing more than to roam around the bushland that surrounds her home looking for dead animals that she can take home to her makeshift lab.

Despite describing herself as having a ‘dark heart,’ Lottie’s interest comes from her love of animals and her intention is to preserve them. ‘I wanted to keep it, to hold on. I wanted to preserve its lively expression’. And so, her specimen collection grows to include birds, rabbits, skinks and frogs.

Mr Morris, who is teaching Lottie about burial practices in Ancient Egypt, understands but Aunt Hilda, who has been like a mother to Lottie, disapproves.

Interspersed with poignant memories of her late mother, Lottie explores her mother’s intact bedroom and wears her clothes. It gradually becomes clear that Lottie has experienced an unusual amount of loss in her young life, but as she works through her grief, the dead wildlife she finds in the bushland help her come to terms with it.

Wonderfully evocative, reading The Art of Taxidermy feels like you’re taking a long walk in the Australian bush with Lottie, reflecting on grief, loss and mortality. Slowly and gently through exquisitely descriptive verse, the extent of the pain her family has endured is revealed.

Yet, there is also a lot of life and hope to be found in The Art of Taxidermy. Set in 1960s South Australia, the pages are filled with wattle birds, corellas, eucalypts, cockatoos family and love. ‘In those delicate bones and teeth were the elements and minerals of stars and stardust and of all the people I ever loved.’

The artwork on the book cover also needs to be mentioned – the delicate gumnuts, wattle and pale blue and green eggshells that fill the cover are stunning and add another layer to the connection to the Australian bushland.

Shortlisted for the Text Prize in 2017 and part of the upcoming schools program for Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Sharon Kernot has created a truly unique book for 13+ readers. If you have a reader in the house who could do with a challenge, then this would be the perfect way to introduce them to something new that they can spend some time reflecting on.

Purchase a copy of The Art of Taxidermy | Read an extract

Sharon Kernot writes poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals, magazines and anthologies including Island, Mascara Literary Journal, Best Australian Poems, and Australian Love Stories.


Comments

  1. Lisa Jewell

    I loved this verse novel so much. It felt like the best part of each season. I’ve never read about grief in such a visceral way. Truly special.

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