Competition published on March 10, 2017.
A lost boy. A dead girl, and one who is left behind.
Robbie doesn’t want anything more to do with death, but life in a village full of whispers and secrets can’t make things the way they were.
When the white hare appears, magical and fleet in the silvery moonlight, she leads them all into a legend, a chase, a hunt. But who is the hunter and who the hunted?
In The White Hare, Michael Fishwick deftly mingles a coming-of-age story with mystery, myth and summer hauntings.
**We have a copy of The White Hare to give away – scroll down for your chance to win**
The White Hare by Michael Fishwick is the launch title for Head of Zeus’ new children’s imprint, Zephyr and we knew YA fan Jade Craddock would be keen to have a first look. Read her review below:
Michael Fishwick’s The White Hare is the launch title for Head of Zeus’s new children’s imprint, Zephyr, and it sets the bar very high. Unlike the typical middle grade/YA novel of the moment, which tend to fall into either the contemporary or dystopian/fantasy genres, Fishwick’s novel is positively literary. Not in a pretentious or exclusionary way, but in an ambitious, distinctive way that I think is great for teen readers, introducing them to a different style of writing and reading. Indeed, there’s a very natural lyricism to the novel that again is perhaps not of the typical YA fare, as well as a strong mythical and metaphorical element that encourages readers to engage their imaginations fully. This is not to dismiss other books and genres aimed at children, but purely to acknowledge the importance and place of a book like Fishwick’s, which opens up a whole other literary world for younger readers, which can only be a good thing.
At its heart the book is a coming-of-age story centred on Robbie, whose life has been turned upside down not only by the death of his mother but by his father’s subsequent relationship with Sheila and the family’s move from the inner city world where Robbie has spent all of his life to the quiet rural backwaters where his father grew up. Robbie’s readjustment is made somewhat easier by his friendship with the enigmatic Mags, but the appearance of a strange and mysterious white hare and his run-in with a pair of rapscallion local brothers ensure that his new life is full of curiosities.
Fishwick’s depiction of place and landscape as well as his creation of the atmosphere and mythology of the novel is excellent, if at times the mythology itself requires some inspiration. The dialogue was occasionally a bit erratic and the pace was pretty runaway but by and large this is a novel of high quality and creativity. I do wonder what the target market of teenage readers will make of it in an arena saturated by much more prosaic works but it is exactly the sort of book that deserves to figure in the reading lives of young people.
Jade Craddock, 4/4
For our stop on the blog tour for The White Hare we’re featuring an ‘author meets reviewer’ Q&A between Jade and Michael Fishwick:
JC: I believe The White Hare is your first novel for a younger audience, what motivated you to make the leap from adult to children’s fiction? And as an author what is the best thing about writing for younger readers?
MF: About fourteen years ago I went with a New Zealand friend to see the film ‘Whale Rider’, where a young girl has to win the trust of her grandfather by proving herself the natural leader of their tribe; she forms a bond with a whale and is ridden out to sea, and indeed under the sea. It made me want to write something that combined human relationships with a magicality that perhaps transcends and heals the fractures in the real world. I think Robbie’s encounter with Mags’s world helps him reconcile himself to the world he finds himself in, and ultimately to forgiveness towards his father. I think this kind of writing is only really feasible in children’s literature; it’s something to do with the way the imagination is allowed to flourish and empower, releasing the reader from the adult world. It was a challenge to write about a grieving fourteen-year old, to get the balance right, and I did want to write it for adults too, for anyone who likes to get caught up in a story.
JC: A lot of fiction aimed at younger/ teen readers at the moment tends to be less lyrical and mythical than your novel, was bringing this sort of reading experience to this age group important to you in writing this novel?
MF: In preparation for writing the book I reread old favourites of mine: Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk, Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for a Knave, among others. I was really simply hoping to imbue my novel with the richness and intensity of those kind of works.
JC: Are you encouraged by the books that are available for children/teens, or do you think there’s more to be done?
MF: I read to my three sons until they were each eleven, and though in their earlier years we read contemporary books, as they grew older we read works that I had loved: C.S Lewis, Masefield and Garner, Tolkien, Arthur Ransom, Richmal Crompton and the beloved Moomins, etc. The advent of J.K.Rowling was greeted at the time with a universal hooray, partly because she got children away from games and TV to books; and her books were astonishingly creative; one did feel a new golden age had arrived. And children’s publishing is very vibrant and innovative and is a very passionate and enthusiastic community. There will always be more to be done, and it’s good to have variety so that all tastes are catered for.
JC: The White Hare relies quite a lot on imagery and metaphor, what do you hope younger/teen readers take from the book?
MF: I think I simply would love them to find an imaginative engagement with world of the novel; I often think enchantment is a quality of all good novels and poems and plays (and music and painting), and I would love them to find that quality in The White Hare.
JC: The hare itself is intrinsic to the novel, what was it about this creature that attracted you to using it as the central motif in the story?
MF: Its wildness, its otherness, its mystery, its elusiveness, its inherent magic; and everyone loves hares, the world over.
JC: What does the white hare symbolise to you?
MF: Well, it’s the legend of the white hare, which involves the brutality of love, I suppose; Fran’s broken-heartedness, and the desire for revenge; as Mrs Allardyce hints at, it could be said to stand for all the mistreated women of the world, and so when he sees it sometimes merges into a succession of women’s faces, until his mother tells him to learn forgiveness: ‘It doesn’t have to be this way.’ So love and loss, but also redemption and healing.
JC: The countryside also contributes significantly to the novel, was there a particular area that conjured this world in your mind before you wrote the novel?
MF: Yes, where the book is set; an area of Somerset which we as a family have been visiting for twenty-five years between Alfred’s Tower on the Stourhead estate and King Arthur’s Camelot, Cadbury Castle, and on the edge of the Somerset Levels. Bringing up children is a magical thing, and I always felt this part of the world was deeply magical, too.
JC: The city/urban landscape tends to be used more readily for children’s/teen novels than the countryside, aside from the fact that the white hare is more realistic in a rural environment, how important to your novel was setting the story away from an urban environment? And how did this setting contribute to Robbie’s development?
MF: I think you’re right, using the hare necessitated the countryside, but I could set up a tension in Robbie’s life between his love of the town and the world he now finds himself in, with a family he doesn’t like, grief-stricken and with a father who seems detached, finding solace and relief and distraction and friendship in the natural world. And I welcomed the opportunity to write about nature, which has always been important to me as a source of regeneration and healing.
JC: The so-called ‘issues’ elements of the novel – Robbie’s misbehaviour, his mother’s death, family dynamics etc. – are given a different significance through the prism of the novel’s use of imagery, myth and metaphor rather than tackling them fundamentally as the epicentre of the story, was it important to you that the novel didn’t just become an examination of these issues but wove them into something more literary?
MF: Absolutely; I wanted it to work on the differing levels of the seen and the unseen; the world is both what it is and a source of endless discovery of things you didn’t know about, and learning of alternative realities, which do and don’t exist, is both necessary and exciting.
JC: What will you take away from the experience of writing The White Hare?
MF: It was a long process, and went through many stages, so apart from simply loving the writing, especially as it improved (much harder to get the tone of a children’s novel right than an adult one) I relish the discovery that one can rework and rework until you shape the novel you had wanted all along to write.
Check out the rest of the tour and find out more about this magical novel.
We have a copy of the book to give away – for your chance to win simply fill in the form below:
About the author
Michael Fishwick is a publisher and author of two acclaimed novels, Smashing People and Sacrifices. He lives in London and Somerset, where the book is set.
The White Hare by Michael Fishwick, published on 9 March, 2017 by Zephyr, in hardback
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