I finished The Taxidermist’s Lover by Polly Hall this morning, and I have so many feelings about this book! I was initially pulled into this ‘modern Gothic’ tale by the lush writing and lyrical descriptions. The story starts with Scarlett, the protagonist, relaying memories of her relationship to Henry, a taxidermist. The recollections are written as though she is writing letters to Henry, jumping between the past and the current day. This story is a slow burn, with great attention spent setting the mood, and carefully laying a trail of breadcrumbs that do not fully reveal themselves till the very end, but instead start to nag at your mind that ‘something isn’t right’. I started to see the warnings, the dark hints about the untimely demise of Scarlett’s parents and suspicions around secrets Henry was keeping, but I was still not expecting the ending, and was shocked and riveted till the last page. But I won’t say anything more about the ending, lest I spoil the book. While this is probably not for those who may be squeamish by the very idea of stuffing dead animals or those looking for a fast-pasted romp, this is a great book for those intrigued by dark and simmering stories.
Here is the official Goodreads Synopsis:
A modern Gothic tale of a woman obsessed with her lover’s taxidermy creatures and haunted by her past. Things were never quite the same after you started mixing up the species. When Scarlett meets taxidermist Henry, a passionate love affair commences. One year later, on Christmas Day, Scarlett recalls the ebb and flow of their intense relationship and tries to unravel her obsession with Henry’s taxidermy creatures and the influence of his rival, Felix. Both enchanted and entrapped by the isolated rural environment on the Somerset moorland she calls home, Scarlett reaches out to her only remaining family, twin brother Rhett, to make sense of the secrets they share. Soon Scarlett realizes that past promises have far reaching consequences. Drenched in the torrential rains of rural South West England and the sensual pleasures of the characters, The Taxidermist’s Lover, lures you ever deeper into Scarlett’s delightfully eerie world.