Friday, August 25, 2017

Watership Down by Richard Adams

I can understand why Adams initially had a hard time finding a publisher for this book. The protagonists (rabbits) seem too infantile for grownups, but the subjects (war, totalitarianism, threat of extinction, etc.) are too heavy for children. But I'm glad he persisted.

I confess that I have tried to read Watership Down a number of times and have given up, but when I saw it available as an audiobook via my library, I decided to give it another try. Ralph Cosham's outstanding narration was what I needed to help me persevere.

Fiver is a gentle rabbit with a sixth sense. He warns the other rabbits of upcoming danger to the warren, but only a few believe him. He, his brother Hazel, and a few others make their escape before it's too late. The novel shows the many challenges they face in finding a new warren.

Intermixed with the drama is plenty of humor, gentle wisdom, small kindnesses and lovely writing. The cherry on the cake is that each chapter begins with an appropriate literary quote.

The rabbits have their own language (a tractor/car is a "rudado") and their own mythology (their world was created by a being called Frith.) The characters are well-drawn, especially Fiver who reminds me of Frodo as a reluctant hero. Big Wig is a large, tough rabbit who softens as the story goes along. He is the only rabbit who takes Frith's name in vain, which might offend some, but I found it hilarious.

And what's not to love about animals who enjoy a good story? The main character in their tales is El-ahrairah, a Robin Hood of sorts. These stories within a story were exceptionally entertaining.

P.S. As I was writing this review I popped over to Wikipedia to make sure I had all my names straight. I was flabbergasted to read that feminists hate this book because the female rabbits are basically breeding factories. It never entered my mind to be offended by this book. (In fact the females are so important to the future of the warren that all the males risk their lives for them.)



Michele Morin said...

I've never read this, but we had pet rabbits for quite a few years when all the kids were small, so I can imagine enjoying it. And I also wonder if Brian Jacques, creator of Redwall series, took his inspiration from it with so much imagination around animals.

Barbara H. said...

I have wanted to read this for ages but keep not getting around to it. Someday!

Susan@ Reading World said...

I read this as a kid and loved it. Then read it with my kids and loved it even more.