Hare’s Fur by Trevor Shearston
In many ways, the opening scene is emblematic of the major concerns in Trevor Shearston’s new novel, Hare’s Fur. It opens in the early morning with its protagonist Russell Bass drinking a coffee, staring out the window into the bush. Russell’s inner monologue guides us through the bucolic scene. Inside, a fire of gum leaves and pine splits crackles. Outside, the flora is in full bloom. The delicate ‘high-fired earthenware’ coffee cup Russell holds in his hands foreshadows a tension – literally, how to reconcile a rustic lifestyle with a life largely spent handling precious aesthetic objects? How does one handle fragility in everyday life?
Russell is a professional potter living on the edge of the Blue Mountains, leading a mostly solitary existence following the death of his wife and young son. Walking one day in search of potting materials, he encounters three siblings: teenage Jade and her younger sister and brother, Emma and Todd. The three are sleeping rough in order to avoid social services and their looming separation in foster care.
Shearston draws a parallel between the caution required in Russell’s profession and in his interactions with the three damaged yet hopeful children. Russell eventually befriends and establishes some trust with the siblings, but their relationship is as fraught and precarious as their transient living situation. Constant is the stress between Russell’s concern for the children and his desire not to be overbearing, just as the precious mug ‘belonged on a safe shelf … but he continued to use it’.
With luminous prose and ekphrasis, Shearston depicts the ubiquitously relatable challenge of handling change in everyday life. Hare’s Fur is a poignant story of the literal and figurative pottery of trust, friendship and new beginnings, dirty hands and all.