Australia, Author, Fiction, literary fiction, Publisher, Scribe, Setting, Trevor Shearston

‘Hare’s Fur’ by Trevor Shearston

Fiction – paperback; Scribe; 194 pages; 2019.

Australian writer Trevor Shearston is a new-to-me author, but he’s been penning novels for quite some time judging by his GoodReads author’s page which lists eight novels, a short story collection and an academic paper.

Hare’s Fur, published in 2019, is a gentle but immersive story about a man leading a relatively solitary life whose world is opened up by the arrival of three young runaways whom he takes in and shelters.

It’s set on the outskirts of Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, where 72-year-old professional potter Russell Bass lives and works. His wife died 11 months ago and he is going through a period of adjustment. He has a few close friends living nearby — including his sister-in-law, Delys, and her husband, Hugh, who is also a potter — who keep an eye on him, invite him over for dinner and make sure he doesn’t turn into a complete recluse.

He is pretty self-sufficient though and sticks to a regular schedule of work, throwing pots, sourcing clay and wood for his kiln, firing and sending his work off to exhibitions.

Hiking trip

Once a month he heads off on foot to the valley below his house to collect iron-rich rock he uses to make glazes for his pots. (The title of the novel, by the way, refers to a type of glaze, black with coloured streaks, that is said to resemble hare’s fur.)

He halted and stared through the columns of trunks. It was like peering into the gloom of a cathedral. The path disappeared among mossed boulders and ferns and pepperbush and the five or six other species that made up the understorey.

On one of these trips, he notices a Mars Bar wrapper on the path, which, in turn, leads him to discover two young children, Emma and Todd, and their teenage sister, Jade, living in a remote cave.

He befriends the trio who have been hiding from DoCS (child welfare) and the police for the past nine days. Both parents have been jailed for drug offences (possession and dealing) and there’s a fear the siblings will be split up when they are taken into care.

This presents Russell with a moral dilemma: does he tell the authorities, or does he help the children evade them, even if that means being drawn into a risky world he doesn’t quite understand? He chooses the latter.

Fragile bonds

Over the course of this beautifully written novel, we witness Russell’s relationship with the children grow and develop over a short period of time. He provides a safe haven for them, offers food and shelter, and acts as a guide and mentor. He teaches Emma to play chess, shows Jade how to throw pots on a foot-driven wheel and lets Todd watch as much TV as he wants.

A bond of trust evolves but it is as fragile as the pottery Russell creates.

There are risks associated with Russell’s decision. There’s an older sister, Kayla, who arrives with a boyfriend standing in the shadows, spinning a story about trying to find an aunt in Sydney who will take them in. And there’s a fear that neighbours, seeing Russell with children, will want to know who they are and why they are staying with him.

But while these children have effectively turned Russell’s world upside down, their arrival has now given his life new meaning. With them, he is free to be himself. When he tells them his own son died, aged eight, it’s like the “bursting of a bubble in this chest”:

There were people he’d known for years who assumed that he and Adele had been childless.

There’s a melancholy sadness at the heart of this novel, but it’s also an uplifting account of crossing a social divide to help others. It doesn’t shy away from the brutal realities of life, but it shows how a gentle, empathetic and nurturing attitude can work wonders on children damaged by forces outside of their control.

And it’s filled with gorgeous detailed descriptions of the landscape and the art of pottery.

For other takes on this novel, please see Sue’s review at Whispering Gums and Lisa’s review at ANZLitLovers.

18 thoughts on “‘Hare’s Fur’ by Trevor Shearston”

    1. Yes, it’s a really lovely book. I picked it up by chance at the library and am so glad I did. I like the nuances in the book. It’s not glorifying druggies or child neglect or going into gratuitous detail. It just presents a problem and offers an alternative solution.

      I have Shearston’s latest book in my TBR. I bought it last year on the strength of your review and am looking forward to it more than ever now.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I do wonder if it’s lack of sensation and “twist” means it is more difficult to market and therefore it misses out on mainstream advertising and therefore has to rely on word of mouth or blog reviews (which publicists now seem to discount in favour of bookstagram and booktube and booktok 🙄)

      Liked by 2 people

          1. I guess I can understand both sides. The world is changing, isn’t it. Personally, I would not want to be paid for what I do, or, not by publishers, because I’m not marketing. But what some (many) of those booktubers etc do looks very much like marketing given the ones I’ve seen tend to read the back cover and gush. There are some I know who create real content, but I guess that takes even more time than writing a post. Why would you for free? For some, like us bloggers, it’s an enjoyable hobby. For some, I suppose there’s simply the fame, but for some of these I’m guessing they hope it will lead to paid work. A bit like being an unpaid intern?

            Liked by 1 person

  1. Imagine if ads were so expensive on WP that they paid us (per view) to produce content. Would I be tempted to review Lianne Moriarty to increase my viewership? Maybe! Would I be tempted to review Lianne Moriarty favourably? There’s the question. I reckon I could write a Danny Katz type column. But he bores me silly, so I’d probably get sick of it.
    i got sidetracked. I was going to say Kim that you review an interesting array of contemporary Australian fiction since coming back to Australia, and I was wondering how come, but I guess you answered early on – you go to the library, which I rarely do except for audiobooks.

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    1. Well, that model of “journalism” is a reality for some where the journos are paid by click rather than salary. I personally find that wrong for all kinds of reasons and would take too long to explain in a comment.

      I think my reading tastes are fairly eclectic. The novelty of having ready access to Australian novels has not worn off after two decades living abroad where they were super hard to come by! I do buy a lot but it’s not good for the bank balance and now that Freo library is in the centre of town and open until 7pm weeknights it’s convenient to drop by and see what I could borrow. I think everything I have read this month has come from the library, which doesn’t really help the TBR 🤷🏻‍♀️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like quite a compelling novel. I’m glad you have a library in order to access physical books. My purchases from the most local indie haven’t been great for the budget. Cheers.

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    1. It’s a beautiful book, Jennifer, which I’ve been thinking about a lot ever since reading it. Like you, I spent a LOT of money on books at my local indie over the past 18 months but I am having to cut back now that I have purchased a new apartment. Fortunately my local library has recently moved into new premises a short walk away and has also increased its stock, so I have no excuses not to borrow more books this year.

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      1. This is actually wonderful, to be so near a nice local library! I must apologize that I have been missing out on your replies. I thought I might get a pingback to my inbox if you replied, since I do subscribe to your newsletter. No such luck, so now I’ll chase up your older replies and I’ll be sure to tick on the see replies via email option. Your reviews are terrific. Cheers!

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        1. No need to apologise. I don’t know what’s going on with Word Press. I follow a lot of blogs and leave comments but no longer get notifications when they’ve replied. I have also noticed that I can post a review which doesn’t turn up in subscriber emails until three days later.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully written – I read this on a Sunday afternoon after a cancelled date with my daughter….. the afternoon just slipped away as I sank into this book and was hooked.

    I’m going to have to stop reading your blog as I’ve also almost finished your next recommendation – When All is Said by Anne Griffin. Again – loving it! But I have too many other books to read without all these extras!! Haha!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed this one… the perfect Sunday afternoon read!

      And happy to hear you’re enjoying When All is Said… I feel like every book I have read this year has featured someone aged 70+ in a starring role. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

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