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.
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.