Watership Down by Richard Adams
Review by Floresiensis
"A gripping story of rebellion in a rabbit warren and the subsequent adventures of the rebels... Adams has a poetic eye and a gift for storytelling which will speak to readers of all ages for many years to come" Sunday Telegraph
"A masterpiece... The best story about animals since The Wind in the Willows. If not better... it is very funny, exciting, often moving... It is also educative and tough. These animals are shot, gassed, choked in snares. When the bucks fight they rip each other with their claws" Evening Standard
"A great book... A whole world is created, perfectly real in itself, yet constituting a deep incidental comment on human affairs" Guardian
"A literary work of uncommon merit" The New York Times Book Review
"From blood and the thump of fear to the pleasure of good feeding, the discovery of new surroundings or the texture of the day, we are immersed in the rabbits' world... one might, at the same time, be reading some gripping escape story, the rabbit characters are so totally credible" The Times Literary Supplement
"An impressive, immensely readable story, held together by a powerful imagination that soon forbids disbelief" New Statesman
"The beautifully written and intensely moving story is the work of an extraordinary imagination... a classic of animal literature" Sunday Telegraph
Luke from Durham north England
I read watership down at a very young age, perhaps ten, indeed it was one of the longest books I'd read at that time excepting Lord of the rings. As such I found it completely enchanting in its world, mythos and characterisation of rabbits. Returning now however, particularly after reading William horwood's duncton series I am less taken with WAterhship down over all. While I would still recommend the book and would not disagree with its status as a modern classic, it nevertheless does have its share of flaws and problems, particularly in comparison to Horwood's work. Undoubtedly, both the natural research upon the life and times of rabbits, and the building of a complex and rich rabbit mythology with some allusions to a lapine language are some of the books major strengths. However, despite this deep seated background, Adams does not do quite as well when it comes to characters, mostly due to his rather uneasy combination of the natural and the anthropomorphic. For example, though his rabbits have all the behaviours of natural rabbits from fighting and mating to rather uncontrolled breeding, his psychological or linguistic explanations of the thought processes of his characters can often seem cold and somewhat overly analytical. Whereas Horwood in Duncton wood or Tad Williams in Tale chasers' song simply state that animals feel human emotions or have ideas that progress the plot, and thus achieve a level of identification with their characters, Adams painstakingly embarks on something of an in depth and somewhat scientific explanation of many of his characters thoughts and behaviours. For example, explaining how rabbits have little concept of time or art, or how the idea of something floating on water is alien and how rabbits must avoid a panic state just for me served to make Adams' rabbit characters less believable. Where as with other works of animal fantasy I could genuinely believe! animals possessed human intelligence and emotions, Adams rabbits came across as some sort of half human, very alien beings and thus far less identifiable to me. This coldness in characterization was also emphasized by the fact that Adams frequently, instead of talking about the rabbits in an in universe style, alluded to Robinson cruso or other human figures, thus making it more obvious that he is a human writer discussing somewhat distant rabbit characters. The impersonal feeling was also not helped by the fact that even when Adams attempted to assign individual character traits to single characters, they simply proved to be an example of that trait. Leadership, helplessness, loyalty, humour, intelligence, it almost felt as if Adams was afraid to give his rabbit characters more than one identifying characteristic each, which also served to make the book's character development pretty negligible, there are no loves or friendships here that do not exist upon initial meeting, indeed love or companionship beyond specific family ties are totally absent, a stark contrast from both the other works of this genre that I know. All that being said, Watership down still has much to recommend it. Not only the mythos of the rabbits, but also the countryside of England is represented very completely, albeit with slight scientific allusions in places. Still, I could well imagine the geography of this book, even more because it's places and atmospheres are so immediately and primally drawn to the readers' senses. A couple of passages even dip into a mystical or dreamlike quality, especially when discussing rabbits who have some precognitive abilities, but Adams detailed yet matter of fact style is able to blend these experiences flawlessly with the rest of the work, and while perhaps the poetic in me does cry out for a little more in the way of mental and emotive richness in these places, it can't be denied that these sections do add considerably to the overall quality of the book rather than seeming out of place . perhaps the major climax for me was the different rabbit society encountered in the warren of efrafa. while this social structure does not match those created by Williams or Horwood, the idea of different political groups with their own practice and laws still working under the constraints of the natural life of rabbits was very unique. I also appreciated the points when in the novel, Adams gave us a view of the rabbit characters from the perspective of humans, and how even a little girl who keeps pet rabbits could become a malevolent figure, yet Adams is too careful a stylist to just make this a preachy work of "look at the nasty humans ruining nature" and for all the gassings, predation by farm cats and dogs, road buildings and other unpleasantness there are points that show the better side of humans as well. All in all watership down is a very well written book, and one which at the time explored a bold new territory, albeit that those few writers who have entered into that territory since Adams have for me done something of a better job particularly when it comes to characters. I would still however distinctly recommend this book to anyone who loves nature and the natural world or is interested in exploring new and unique perspectives.
Shell from Winchester
Never thought talking rabbits would get me - but if this is read as allegory - strong stuff.
Nicole from Berkeley, CA
The book that is the benchmark for all good animal fiction. The film 'Watership Down' can also be nominated for 'Best Animated Film That Traumatized Generation X."
RM Byrne from Harth
One of the greatest stories of the time. Taking place in rural England, it brings back the age old theme of life on the run. Two brother rabbits lead a devoted band of friends away from a predicted disaster to find a new home. This book introduced characters to me that have changed my way of thinking.
David from Maidstone
Fantastic book - a must read. It's a really moving story about rabbits leaving their warren to set up life in a new warren. They are led by a rabbit who has apocalyptic visions of the future of the old warren. Tremendous stuff!
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