Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 4, 2019

Hare’s Fur, by Trevor Shearston

Hare’s Fur is such a lovely book! The Australian literary scene is awash with grim books at the moment, but as the blurb says Hare’s Fur offers an exquisite story of grief, kindness, art, and the transformation that can grow from the seeds of trust.

The novel doesn’t shy away from the realities of life.  Russell Bass is a Blue Mountains potter, alone after the recent death of his wife, and of his child, long ago.  He has kindly neighbours who offer companionship and he has his highly-regarded creative work as a potter to keep him busy, but nothing can fill the chasm of loss after his beloved wife died unexpectedly almost a year ago.

That is, until Russell stumbles upon some children hiding out in the remote bush where he goes to harvest clay for his pots.  These kids are from an entirely different world.  They are sleeping rough in a freezing cave because their feckless parent has been taken off to gaol for dealing in drugs.  The oldest of these kids, Jade, has at 15 seen it all before, and she believes that DoCS (the Department of Community Services) will separate the trio when they go into care.  Because, the last time her mother was gaoled, that’s what happened to her and her older sister Kayla.

Russell, knowing nothing of this when he first sees the two younger ones playing a game in the creek, sees straight away that all is not well.  He judges the smaller one to be about five and the other eight or nine:

… now he studied the faces.  They lacked the roundness of children’s faces, looked bony, underfed. The boy was olive-skinned, his cheeks burnished like — again — those of bin-rummagers in town, and probably from the same cause, sun and wind.  (p.35)

But Russell doesn’t show himself:

… they would bolt, he was sure, the second he showed himself.  It was the feral in their appearance, the filthy windcheaters, the slightly starved faces.  And they were too at ease, like kids playing in their own backyard.  They would react as if to an intruder.  Which he was.  If they were actually living close by.  (p.37)

DoCS, of course, is searching for them (and rightly so); and the kids assume that a responsible adult would turn them in.  But Russell doesn’t react in the expected way.  He assumes that there’s a parent with them and based on the coarse language of the children, and their neglected appearance, has made some judgements about her. But he’s a man who’s open to other possibilities as well:

He’d perhaps misjudged the parent here.  These two seemed not at all fearful — of being out in the bush, or of what, down here, would be pitch-dark nights, just a slit of sky.  They obviously felt themselves safe, whatever the reason for being here.  He shouldn’t destroy that feeling. (p.38)

This gentle story of children both damaged and resilient, and the way that Russell is able to transcend the social gulf between them is an homage to trust and a testament to the human spirit.

Trevor Shearston is the author of Game, which was long-listed for the Miles Franklin.

PS Hare’s Fur, BTW, is nothing to do with furry wild mammals with long ears.  It’s a kind of ceramic glaze said to resemble rabbit’s fur.  You can see an example here. There is quite a lot about pottery in this novel, but not enough to be boring.

Author: Trevor Shearston
Title: Hare’s Fur
Publisher: Scribe Publishing, 2019, 208 pages
ISBN: 9781925713473
Review copy courtesy of Scribe

Available direct from Scribe and good bookshops everywhere.

 


Responses

  1. I have good friends who work at the coal face for DoCS but I still generally barrack for the kids in fiction who are evading them. In real life I would hate to be the one making decisions- to leave with a ‘bad’ parent, to split up siblings … One of the mothers at the kids’ school fostered hordes of children, did an amazing job. If you haven’t sent this one to the op shop …. (I’m in Melb as I write, but sadly must go on to Sydney tomorrow).

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    • You missed a nice dinner then – rockling korma! (You eat fish, right?)

      I’ve seen some bad decisions made by DoCS but only because they were in an invidious position – not enough foster carers, few who are willing to take on siblings, and the worst one of all was the brave little fellow who very reluctantly told us about getting beaten up by his mum’s boyfriend, and she chose to stay with the brute, to put the boy in care, and sever his contact with his sister. He was distraught about what might happen to her and there was not a thing DoCS could do about it.

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      • Dinner would have been nice, but as you know I breakfasted in Pt Augusta this morning, and I was still well north of Bendigo at 8.00 pm

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  2. I like the sound of this one!

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  3. The idea of pottery and the Blue Mountains is very appealing. I love books that introduce me to activities I don’t know much about – like pottery.

    I expect as a teacher you have quite a working experience of DoCS. I think my son is gradually gaining this knowledge too – more’s the pity. I do feel very sorry of DoCS and its staff because I’m sure most there really want to do right by kids and families but their resources are so stretched.

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    • Yes, but it’s also very hard to stand by and watch irresponsible and violent parents exercise their ‘rights’, when the love they profess is just a word.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] ANZLitLoversLitblog stellt uns Hare’s Fur von Trevor Shearston vor. […]

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