It has never really struck me before how much we take light for granted. I mean, if I can’t see what I am doing, a quick flick of a light switch renders everything visible. My productivity is not restricted to daylight hours and with street lights and car headlights, it is easy to move around at night. Kate Fosse’s novel is not infused with much light at all. It is dark – both actually and figuratively.
Connie is the taxidermist’s daughter. In a gloomy cottage at the edge of the waterlogged Sussex marshes, she practises the skills of breathing art into dead birds. She learned the craft from her father, Gifford, whose heavy drinking forces him into his own dark places. Connie has gaps in her memory following a childhood accident, but flashes of recollection mean she is beginning to recall her early years. When the lifeless body of a young woman is washed ashore close to Connie and Gifford’s house, the discovery of the body coincides with the disappearance of two more local men. As Connie’s memory improves, events begin to come together in a disturbing tableau.
This novel is almost unrelentingly dark. The young Davey provides some light relief, and there is some romantic interest for Connie, but the final denouement is macabre and shocking. The suspense builds throughout the novel, so much so that as the plot approached its climax I was yelling at Connie: “don’t open the door, just don’t go in there!”
There is an element of sexual violence in the plot, highlighting the fact that such aberrations are not a modern phenomenon, just more widely reported and sensationalised nowadays.
‘The Taxidermist’s Daughter‘ has received plenty of praise and I can also recommend it. But not if you are squeamish – or need cheering up!