The White Hare by Jane Johnson

In a valley steeped in legend lies an abandoned house where Edens may be lost, found and remade…

The White Valley in the far west of Cornwall cuts deeply through bluebell woods down to the sea. The house above the beach has lain neglected since the war. It comes with a reputation, which is why Mila and her mother Magda acquire it so cheaply in the fateful summer of 1954.

Magda plans to restore the house to its former glory: the venue for glittering parties, where the rich and celebrated gathered for bracing walks by day and sumptuous cocktails by night. Mila’s ambitions, meanwhile, are much less grand; she dreams of creating a safe haven for herself, and a happy home for her little girl, Janey.

The White Valley comes with a long, eventful history, laced with tall tales. Locals say that a white hare may be seen running through the woods there; to some she’s an ill omen, to others a blessing. Feeling fragile and broken-hearted, Mila is in need of as many blessings as she can get. But will this place provide the fresh start she so desperately needs?


I have always loved a well written piece of historical fiction, especially when it is twinned up, with a smattering of folklore and just a touch of fantasy. This being why The White Hare, is the prefect example of one of my favorite types of books.

It’s a passionately wrought tale of family secrets, of how the past leaks into the future. Of how the places we live, carry within their DNA, the history of those that came before us. The land the story is set within, is as much a character as Magda and I loved how Jane Johnson brought the west of Cornwall alive within The White Hare. Anyone who has spent time in Cornwall, will know how the landscape feels imbued with the secrets of the past, of how when the mist drifts in from the sea, it can feel like there is an aura of enchantment wrapping itself around you.

The author manages to create a connection between the land and it’s people, giving the story a strong sense of a landscape haunted by past misdeeds, of secret and sacred places reaching out to rewrite the wrongs of the past. I loved how you never knew if the powerful spell the land exerted over Magda and the local people was as malign as the Reverend Casworan Martin implies or as protective as Keziah believes, until the end of the story. We, as a much as the characters, feel both the cloying embrace of The White Hair and it’s potential to protect us and Magda. Because the author weaves an intricate tale of a land brought alive when a new family come to live in a house long abandoned.

She also writes into the story a pleura of characters that you love and others that repel you. Magda the ‘heroine’ is allowed to develop as the story progresses. So many stories reduce the female characters to a supporting role, but with The White Hare strong females like Magda hold centre stage. She is vulnerable and yet determined, you want her to find peace and love, but more importantly you want her to embrace the network of female characters around her. Of course there is a character you find repellant, but they are there to provide the drama, to create the tension, you hate them and enjoy doing so.

This is the type of book you read for pleasure, unable to pull yourself away from the story and the characters.

You can buy this novel from Amazon and from Waterstones. You can also buy it from any of our fabulous independent bookshop.

About the author

Jane Johnson is a British novelist and publisher. She is the UK editor for George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb and Dean Koontz and was for many years publisher of the works ofJ.R.R. Tolkien. Married to a Berber chef she met while researching The Tenth Gift, she lives in Mousehole, Cornwall, and Morocco.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JaneJohnsonBakr 


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