What a swift odd turn his life had taken. A teenage girl with a ring in her nose was sliding ware into his drying racks.
Russell Bass is a potter living on the edge of Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains. His wife has been dead less than a year and, although he has a few close friends, he is living a mostly solitary life. Each month he hikes into the valley below his house to collect rock for glazes from a remote creek bed. One autumn morning, he finds a chocolate wrapper on the path. His curiosity leads him to a cave where three siblings — two young children and a teenage girl — are camped out, hiding from social services and the police.
Although they bolt at first, Russell slowly gains their trust, and, little by little, this unlikely group of outsiders begin to form a fragile bond.
In luminous prose that captures the feel of hands on clay and the smell of cold rainforest as vividly as it does the minute twists and turns of human relationships, Hare’s Fur tells an exquisite story of grief, kindness, art, and the transformation that can grow from the seeds of trust.
Hare’s Fur by Trevor Shearston is a literary novella about life, family, loss and the fragility of life and everything in it.
‘Hare’s fur’ is a specific pottery pattern that resembles the fur of a rabbit. Protagonist Russell is in his seventies and lives alone in the Blue Mountains. He is a professional potter. Russell takes a lot of time with his work, making sure to give everything due attention and detail. Russell applies that same attention and concern to the three kids he meets in the woods. They’re frightened and wary, and he is determined to earn their trust and help them.
“He was startled on the return walk when a small hand took his. The boy didn’t risk looking to his face for consent. He gripped back and shortened stride, coughing to swallow away the tightness in his throat. He couldn’t, and finally had to pretend to sneeze so he could wipe his eyes. He thought he must have held a child’s hand since Michael, but couldn’t think whose child.”
Hare’s Fur is rich with description and imagery, taking the reader on a journey of observation and reflection. The symbolism of the story and the characters is not lost. Russell works with pottery — fragile objects. He lives alone since his wife suddenly passed, and he doesn’t have many friends.
These three kids he meets are fragile too, much like the objects he works with. They’ve run away from a troubled home life, a broken family. He befriends them and earns their trust. They have much to learn from each other.
Unfortunately, the pacing really bothered me for most of this novel. There’s so much internal monologue and so much detailed description, that I felt the story was moving too slowly for it to really grip me. I found my attention waning — I found myself flicking through to see how many pages I had left to go.
“The fire was dead, but sitting round and black in the ashes was an object it took him a moment to recognise, so long since he’d seen one, a cast-iron camp oven. It must already have been here, no child could have carried it. The cutlery looked to be of the same vintage, with thick tines and handles.”
Hare’s Fur will be ideal for readers who are looking for character-driven stories, and not necessarily plot-driven. This is for readers who love a slow burn, with overly descriptive imagery and paragraphs. If you’re looking for something fast-paced, then this book isn’t for you.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.