October 07, 2011

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Wow, for a story about rabbits, this was a pretty exciting tale. Adams does a great job of bringing you into the story and making you care about these small critters. They still retain their rabbitness, but you feel empathy for them as you would another human.

When his brother Fiver predicts that tragedy is going to befall their warren, Hazel gathers as many people as will go with him to set off for a new place that will be free from danger. With a small band of rabbits, they face much hardship and dangerous foes in search of a place they can call home. Eventually, they come to the Watership Downs and find a place high on a hill that proves to be the perfect spot for their new warren.

There is one problem however, the only ones who escaped where males. They need to have some does in order to get on with their lives. With a daring plan they set out to gather does only to be brutally beaten by a warlord in charge of another warren. After nearly dying, they decide to devise a plan and get back at this evil foe and make sure that they expand their warren any way possible.

Even though they are rabbits, the characters in this novel are amazing and full of depth. They all have their own distinct personalities but still act like rabbits. There is no amazing feats of daring that a normal rabbit couldn't do. They all operate inside their natural limitations.

Adams has an easy going writing style. I found it particularly interesting that he developed his own "language" for the rabbits. As a linguist it was interesting to see how he chose to use both the English language and the rabbit's natural along with the pidgin language they used to communicate with other animals. It showed great complexity. His writing is very clear and descriptive and he describes the rabbits movements very accurately. I could picture easily what events were taking place.

As a bit of a warning, as much as this could be a book for children, it has some very violent aspects. The rabbits fight frequently and their injuries are described in detail. This could be frightening for younger children. Another part of the book I didn't particularly care for were the stories the rabbits told. They just seemed like filler and I wasn't that interested in them.

A great book to be sure and I can see why it is highly recommended. I'll definitely look into his other books and perhaps the cartoon based off of the book.

Watership Down
Copyright 1972
474 pages + maps and Lapine Glossary

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