You think you know what to expect with certain genres – heroines in romances are usually attractive (even if they have to work to be noticed), heroes are brave (even if they need to convince themselves) and heavy metal guitarists have long hair and tattoos. And, of course, folk singers have beer bellies, beards, and fingers in their ears. So it was a very pleasant surprise a few years ago when Seth Lakeman hit the folk music scene (and crossed over into the pop charts) with his song The White Hare. I’d like to say I was mostly struck by the energy of his playing (I’ve seen him destroy a bow in two or three songs when he plays the fiddle), or the dark undertones of the song but, to be fair I was mostly drooling slightly at his good looks. I know, shallow…So I thought I would make amends by reading a book called the White Hare to see if the slight air of mystery and menace in Lakeman’s lyrics transferred to this story.
The story is centred around a young boy, Robbie, who has been troubled and angry since the death of his mother. That anger seems to have followed him, his dad and his dad’s new partner, as they have moved to a small rural village. Robbie has few friends but is drawn to other outsiders – Mags, an older girl who knows the land and its creatures intimately, and Alice, a sensible girl in his class who stand out as one very few black faces in the village. Mags shows him a mysterious white hare and swears him to secrecy – but will not say why. We gradually discover that the hare is strongly linked to some dark local legends but also that, just because something is legendary doesn’t mean it isn’t also very real.
This book is an exploration of Robbie’s path through loss and grief but it is also a story of the mythology of an area. It delves into the mysterious and into the rather more mundane (although unpleasant) lives of a family with power over a small community. The mystery and menace are there – once again, folk music has not lied to me…