The White Hare by Michael Fishwick
|The White Hare by Michael Fishwick|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Reviving the spirit of Alan Garner, this book doesn't fully convince as regards its location and fantasy – but the characters in it have the power to stand out, and stick around.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: March 2017|
That's the way it was with Mags. She put out his fires. The he in that quote is Robbie, a fourteen-year-old with many problems, mostly related to his mother's passing of cancer and the arson he found to be an attractive hobby while getting his head around her illness. The Mags is another teen, that Robbie has latched onto in his family's new home, deep in the southwest English countryside. Home life is still fraught for Robbie – he has a father he sees as weak-willed, a stepmother, and one step-sister either side of him in age. As a result he likes spending time with either Alice, one of the rare coloured girls at school and like him a newcomer from the cities of Britain, or Mags, who knows all the wild areas thereabouts. But she also knows a heck of a lot that she doesn't want to tell Robbie, even when it starts affecting his dreams…
There is a lot to commend about this book. For one there is what I would call the 'nature writing' aspect, where both the reader and story are richly imbued with the essence of the countryside and the nature, but never in an over-the-top way, so it's there in ways that don't differentiate either from how Robbie would experience it nor from how the teenaged audience of the book would want it. There's also the complexity of Robbie's character, upon which so much hangs here you could almost put it down and return to it surprised it hadn't been in first person all along. I think it could have been easy to make him someone I had no interest in, but there's a depth there that would have escaped a weaker writer, making him much more than the lumpen, reactive, firesetter he might have been.
But on the whole though, this is a genre title, and one with a semblance of a modern Alan Garner book. It's not quite the whole rural psychogeography thing, but it relates to ghosts, the truths related to rustic old wives' tales, and mysterious events – all laid out against a background of flora, fauna and topography. And here I didn't always think a completely high standard had been reached. Things bubble along more than nicely, then Fishwick sits Robbie down at the dining table and has too many people tell him too much he wants to know. We get unlikely things, histories and connections between the key people in this village. And as for the lore behind the drama, wherever it came to our author from, it seemed to be too much – with none of the brevity of commonly-held belief, and more like a full fantasy mythology, to ring true.
That all combined to make a slightly different sense of unsettlement than the author intended I get. But beyond that, I did enjoy what we had here. It certainly is a strong drama, and the balance of putting the rural legend in to the common-or-garden teenaged real-life mentality was finely poised. Character was strong, with a great look at a teenager finding his place in a new world – learning, growing, learning to love running, and so much more – but perhaps that was more noticeable for flaws elsewhere. The last of those I'll mention is that I never got the sense of a true place, and all the numerous locations were too scattershot for me, and not centred on one true-to-life village.
But while I wouldn't jump into re-reading this book, I was certainly grateful that I had. It's got a clarity about what it evokes, and a sterling mood to its pages. It could do very well indeed for this new imprint, and I must thank them for my review copy.
Straight fantasy for the YA/teen audience isn't as strong currently as that for the younger readers – Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is the exception.
You can read more book reviews or buy The White Hare by Michael Fishwick at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The White Hare by Michael Fishwick at Amazon.com.
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