Tuesday 24 April 2012

Watership Down - Richard Adams

Title: Watership Down
Author: Richard Adams
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1972
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

My first ever introduction to the story of "Watership Down" was when I was about 8 or 9 and my school headmaster discussed the movie version that had recently been on TV. To be honest, the only part of the discussion that remained in my memory was how he said it was about rabbits and it had led to him having tears in his eyes. As a young boy I therefore straight away decided that there was no way I was going to watch a movie or read a book about rabbits that made some people cry, it just wasn't manly. However, now at the tender age of 31 I have decided that I should embrace a little bit of my softer side and read "Watership Down" as part of a 2012 Classic Fantasy Books challenge.

The story itself begins with a small rabbit named Fiver having a premonition about death and destruction coming to the warren. His brother, Hazel decides to believe in Fiver's premonition and therefore leads a small group of rabbits out into the wider world in the hope of finding a new, safer place to call home. The journey to their new warren is fraught with dangers and adventures but the real struggle comes later once they have built their new warren on Watership Down. For the rabbits are all male and therefore they must find a way to bring female rabbits into the warren to ensure they grow and remain happy. This need to bring in new rabbits leads to dangerous confrontations with humans, predators and a dictatorial rabbit that rules another warren with an iron paw.

As seen in the details above, the story is basically about a group of rabbits, there is no denying that but as long as you accept this basic premise you should find the book to be a really enjoyable adventure. The world Adams has created is rich, deep and whilst the novel does start off at quite a slow and leisurely pace, it builds up wonderfully to a tense and engaging final confrontation before providing a meaningful and emotional ending.

One aspect of the novel that I really liked was that unlike most anthropomorphic animal stories, the rabbits and other animals in this novel actually continued to behave like animals. None of them were dressed in clothing, cooked or built little houses with furniture and it really felt like Adams had actually put some research into the behaviour and foibles of rabbits. All of this just made the story feel a little bit more believable and realistic as an adventure that these creatures would really undertake if they actually had the intelligence required.

However, Adams has also managed to give each creature their own individual personality in a manner that a reader can actually relate to even though they are animals. This helped to ensure the story was enjoyable and entertaining as the reader can actually cheer on and support the rabbits as they attempted to secure a better future for themselves. In particular I loved the rabbit character known as Bigwig. At first he comes across as being a rather simple tough, brute of a rabbit, but as the story progresses he is developed really well and his honour, loyalty, courage and strength really come to the fore. Each of the characters really grow as the story progresses which adds to the storytelling.

Overall, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel; it was fun, engaging and full of entertaining adventures. The whole story is cleverly told and personally I am now glad that I have finally read this classic story. I feel that anyone normally interesting in anthropomorphic animal novels should definitely give this one a whirl. However, for those of you who don't normally read that type of novel, don't be put off by the rabbits premise, the characters should be engaging enough despite this to ensure most people will finish this book with a smile on their face.

Challenges Book Counts Towards:
Speculative Fiction Challenge
Year of the Fantasy Classic Challenge


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