The White Hare

Written by Jane Johnson
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

The beginning of WW2, and Magdalena and her daughter Mila leave Poland for the safety of London, where they stay until 1954.  During that time Mila grows up, marries, and has a daughter of her own.   This marriage has difficulties, and in 1954 the three move to the White Valley, a remote valley in Cornwall, and buy a run-down property with the idea of restoring it to its former glory and turning it into a guesthouse.   Not all goes according to plan.  The area is haunted by old tales of history and mythology, of which a white hare seems to be prominent.  The main plot, if such there be, is the gradual restoration of the house and the life of the villagers with Magdalena and her family and how they react to each other interspersed with references to the old tales and myths.

I have difficulty relating this story to historical fiction, as there is nothing to connect it to 1954 or the ´50s in particular. It is a good story, though, and I was intrigued from the beginning.   It twisted this way and that, bringing in the old tales, and the characterisation is good.  There is distinction between the newcomers and the villagers, some of whom had lived there for a considerable time.

For me the heroine of the tale was five-year-old Janeska (Janey), Mila’s daughter, but I also thought that parts of her thinking and dialogue were too old for a five-year-old and more in keeping with a child of eight or nine.