Joanna Scott: The Manikin


The latest addition to my website is Joanna Scott‘s The Manikin. This is another superb novel from Joanna Scott. It is primarily set in a remote house in upstate New York called the Manikin (the name for the framework used to build anatomical models). The late owner, Henry Craxton, made his fortune out of selling scientific equipment and supplies, including taxidermy and fossils. The house is now occupied by his widow, Mary, and the various servants and their offspring. Mary is confined to a wheelchair, and is looked after by the housekeeper, Ellen Griswold. Ellen’s daughter, Peg,is something of a free spirit, who likes nothing better than to go outdoors with Junker, son of the groundskeeper. Mary is bored, and misses her only surviving son, Hal, who hates the house and is always travelling. Ellen wonders why Peg, who has had a good education, does not get a job. Junket wants Peg to fall in love with him but knows she will not and Boggio, pensioned-off former employer of Henry Craxton, stays in his hut, dreaming of his taxidermical successes. Then Mary dies and everything changes, as accustomed roles fall by the wayside. Scott tells her story brilliantly, leaving us guessing as to where the novel is going and whether it is a growing up novel, a Gothic novel a nature-lover versus nature-hater novel or something else.

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