Monday, 22 January 2018

Plenty Of Stuffed Birds - But This Is Definitely No Turkey!

"I think you'll enjoy this one" said Bob, and he was right. This is a well written story - most of the action takes place over just three days in April 1912. It centres around 17 year old Connie Gifford- the TD of the title. It is set in a village in Sussex, not far from Chichester.
It is beautifully crafted, with a helpful map at the front, and between chapters, lovely illustrations of birds and feathers, and quotes from Mrs R Lee's "Bible" of Taxidermy, first printed in 1820.
Did you know that the word 'taxidermy' comes from two Greek words, taxis and derma, meaning to move skin ? No, me neither 
Or that Shakespeare makes reference to taxidermy in Romeo and Juliet?
I do remember an apothecary— and hereabouts he dwells…Meagre were his looks, sharp misery had worn him to the bones, and in his needy shop a tortoise hung, an alligator stuffed, and other skins of ill-shaped fishes. [R&J Act 5]
I really enjoy books that not only tell a good story, but also feed me with lots of wonderful trivia.
Here's the plot - the TD lives with Dad and a servant girl fro the village comes in daily. Connie has had a sad life- her Mum died giving birth, and aged 12, Connie fell downstairs and injured her head badly. She survived [just] but now suffers from petit mal, and has no memory of the time 'before' . Her father went bankrupt, and had to sell his amazing museum of stuffed animals. At the beginning of the story, late at night, Connie is lurking in the churchyard. Her Dad drinks heavily, and so she often has to go out at night to ensure he stumbles home safely after his regular jaunt to the pub, and does not end up in the creek, or drowned out on the marsh. 
On this night, there are many men outside - and a woman ends up murdered...
The plot is very clever, with interesting twists and turns. There is amazing detail about the craft of the 'stuffers' [as taxidermists were formerly called]. In Victorian times, they felt the word 'taxidermist' sounded more professional. 
Connie has a vague memory of visiting a Museum of Curiosities in Sussex as a child, and seeing many stuffed animals, including a tableau of The Death and Burial of Cock Robin

Kate Mosse knew about Steyning Museum and the eccentric stuffer, Walter Potter, and has cleverly woven her plot round this. Do check him out!
I was impressed to discover that KM actually studied taxidermy to make sure she wrote about it accurately.
I love crafting, and also miniature things [doll's clothes, doll's house, tiny pieces of stitching] but I am not sure I would be as diligent as to learn how to slice, scrape,stuff and sew a dead jackdaw
There's a murder, and gruesome bits, and unanswered questions - finally resolved. There are amusing, perceptive passages. There is love, and commitment, and doubt. There is a lot of weather. I read this over a old, damp, very windy weekend - which certainly added to the atmosphere. There is sadness, and also surprising moments of joy.
Definitely ***** - but I warn you, you may not handle a packet of Paxo 'Sage and Onion' in the same way ever again!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Angela, now that sounds really good. I absolutely love Kate Mosse's writing. I shall have to put this on the list. Thanks for sharing about it. I might go looking for this tomorrow. Take care. Tricia xx


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!