Review of The Hunter and the Wild Girl by Pauline Holdstock

This captivating novel, Holdstock’s sixth, tells the story of a grieving hunter who’s become a recluse—a taxidermist creating intricate works of art in the remote Languedoc region of France—and that of a feral girl on the run, and what happens when these two cross paths.

            Both the hunter and the wild girl live outside the norms of civilization, and want to keep it that way. However, their meeting sets off a chain of events that leads each of them into territory they’ve never entered before.

            In exquisite prose, with a wide-reaching perspective, Holdstock takes us on an exhilarating journey. The story’s perspectives are varied and numerous, from a village boy to the mayor to the hunter’s estranged wife; even the land itself is included in the cast of characters that populate this book. For example, on page 306, “The hill itself took breath and leaned back a little for her, offering her the chance to lean against it, so that at last she was indeed a lizard hugging the rock, crossing it, and gradually climbing it, gradually, gradually, plastered against its generous breast.” As a result, readers feel an intimate connection with the whole world Holdstock brings to life on the page.

            Anyone who’s ever been lonely, or grieving, or in want of what they do not have will recognize the emotions and impulses these characters embody. A beautiful, haunting tale.

Victoria writer Julie Paul is the author of two short story collections. Her second, The Pull of the Moon, (Brindle & Glass, 2014), won the 2015 Victoria Butler Book Prize. Her first collection of poetry, The Rules of the Kingdom, is forthcoming with MQUP in 2017.