Tag Archives: gothic romance

Guest Blogger: Polly Hall

Since I am on vacation this week, I invited author Polly Hall to guest blog. Polly’s novel, The Taxidermist’s Lover, is the most unusual book I’ve read so far this year. The center of the novel is the relationship between Scarlett and Henry. And their relationship is deeply entwined in Henry’s profession of taxidermy. But Henry isn’t an ordinary taxidermist who’ll memorialize your eight-point buck with a nice mounting. With Scarlett’s encouragement, Henry begins to create bizarre hybrid creatures .

. The relationship between Scarlett and Henry felt sinister to me. The couple first meets and bonds over a dead creature washed ashore on the beach. Scarlett felt to me like she was attracted to darkness and – dare I say – monsters. I was curious about how Polly saw the love relationship when she was writing the book. If you like gothic romance, you will love The Taxidermist’s Lover. And if you’re curious about an author’s thought process as she creates this kind of chilling romance, read on. .

A brief analysis of Scarlett and Henry’s relationship by Polly Hall

In The Taxidermist’s Lover, Scarlett, looks back over the past year, from Christmas Day, to try and make sense of the spooky goings on and her ill-fated love affair with Henry Royston Pepper, the taxidermist. As the reader enters into Scarlett’s head, they are drawn eerily into her thoughts and hear her addressing Henry and effectively speaking directly off the page as if a one-sided conversation or monologue.

The novel is written in second person narrative to reflect the intensity and closeness of their relationship. From the first line, ‘You are a wonderful, complex f**ked up mess,’ you once said to me.’ [p.3] the reader should be aware that this is not a flowery romance. It’s edgy and slippery. ‘It was the silence within you that viciously penetrated me.’

The age difference between the two becomes apparent with their physical descriptions – ‘you with your steady hands, me with the flighty grace of a starling’ and their behaviour, ‘you clasped me about my waist and lifted me effortlessly as if I were a child.’ Even the interaction with the modern world attempts to show the age gap – ‘I suggested a website for your business, but you looked at me as if I were suggesting you sell your soul to the devil.’ p.12 Henry is not interested in the internet and has traditional approaches to his work, yet Scarlett is the one who encourages him to diversify into making hybrid creatures. She sees the market leaning towards the contemporary art of Felix, the rival taxidermist, and feels Henry could also do this, and better.

Scarlett and Henry meet on a beach looking down at a dead creature washed ashore. This is not a normal meet-cute and if you believe in love at first sight this could be construed as already ill-fated, with death in the foreground of their ensuing relationship.

The petty jealousies and rivalry play out in the flooded, atmospheric landscape which becomes a character also vying for attention and on the periphery, there are other contenders: Penny, Felix, and even Scarlett’s pseudo-incestuous relationship with twin brother, Rhett. The weather affects both Scarlett and Henry, the changing landscape isolating and freezing them down as the end of the year approaches. 

Secrets and other family relationships e.g. Rhett and Scarlett’s childhood are reflected upon and Henry shifts into a shadowy background role watching or making himself scarce by going to his workshop. Yet they are compelled back towards each other with an intense physical, almost animal attraction that is private yet exposed to conjecture by their choice to hide away on the moor. p.115 ‘There was not an inch of you I did not know, and I know you had mapped all of me too.’

And at the crux of the story the hybrid animals are there, silent witnesses to the unravelling with their cold, fake eyes staring out from the taxidermy mounts. Even in their intimate moments they are present.

‘When we made love, I’d somehow taste the essence of the creatures you’d been handling – the quick, acrid bite of a fox, the feathery scratch of an owl, the smooth perfume of someone’s beloved pet cat.’

Love is such a huge, indefinable subject but there is definitely warped obsession at play between Scarlett and Henry. All love stories have their dark, dirty secrets but THE TAXIDERMIST’S LOVER takes it to the extreme. I have been asked if Scarlett is suffering from mental health issues or were the supernatural elements ghosts of guilt? I’d like to let the reader decide here. The second person narrative lends itself to the unreliable narrator and seemed to fit the whole solipsistic viewpoint of Scarlett speaking to Henry from inside her head.

About the Author

Polly Hall is a published author and experienced adult education tutor. Her debut novel, The Taxidermist’s Lover, was #1 New Release in Amazon’s British & Irish Horror and Bram Stoker Award 2020 Finalist for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. She has been published in various anthologies and commissioned as part of interdisciplinary arts projects. She holds an MA in Creative Writing and a PGCE in Lifelong Learning. She lives next to a cider factory with her cat, Vishnu.

Twitter: @PollyHallWriter
Facebook: #PollyHallWriter
Instagram: @Polly_Hall_Writer

The Taxidermist’s Lover (published by CamCat Books) is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and all good book stores.