An unnamed man arrives in a small community with only one purpose in mind: hunting the Tasmanian tiger. The Thylacine, creature of fable and fear, is thought still to be found out there in the wilderness, and this man must find it.
Length: 170 pages
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Source: World of Books
Content warnings: animal death, graphic violence
I read The Hunter for a university module dealing with environmental literature, and unfortunately it was one of my least favourite reads of the module. It’s not badly written, but the content of the book is quite sad, and quite graphic, which really affected my mood.
I’m not the type of reader who is easily affected by what I’m reading. Either positively or negatively, it takes a lot for a book to affect my emotions. This book managed it, though not in a good way. I struggled to finish The Hunter because it made me feel so bad. The way Leigh writes is quite slow and meandering, which is normally okay, but it feels so depressing that it made it hard to keep reading. My mood dropped with every page I read.
The story follows ‘M’ as he hunts the last Tasmanian tiger for a large corporation who wants exclusive control of the animal’s DNA and genetics. Leigh never fully explains this in the novel, as it’s not the point. It’s the reason she gives for M’s actions, but the point of the novel is him, and what he’s doing. In excruciating detail, Julia Leigh describes the process he goes through in order to hunt the animal down.
It is this level of detail that makes the book so depressing and difficult to read. In a way, I think that might be the point. This is a morally awful thing this man is doing – hunting an animal to extinction in the name of private profit. So we are meant to feel bad. In this way, I think the book succeeds in its mission.
The writing is first-person point of view, and is the type of writing style where I feel like Leigh chose every word with care. It’s quite sparse, there are no long passages of description. It’s all woven into the story. As ‘M’ spends a lot of the novel alone, there isn’t a lot of dialogue either, which makes the book feel quiet. I felt as if I were there in the forest with him.
There are multiple points within the novel where Leigh describes the deaths of animals in graphic detail. But Leigh attributes no emotion about these deaths to ‘M’: he is cold and clinical, and it’s this detachment from his brutal actions that makes the book chilling, and adds to that sense of depression I got from it.
It’s empty, in a way that depression is empty.
Julie Leigh doesn’t have many other works, and I’m on the fence about whether I’d give any others a go. Her writing is impeccable, but I would be hesitant about her other books having the same affect on me that this one did. Read it, if you think you can handle the hollowness.