Basajaun by Rosemary Van Deuren

7/10 A shining beacon for self-published work

Blood versus fear. Folklore versus mysticism. Animal versus man.

In the world of the rabbits, she is hailed as a saviour. In the world of men, a holy man wants her dead. She is twelve years old.

In an isolated European farm town in 1906, a Pastor known as ‘the rabbit killer’ is preaching that the overrun of rabbits is a parallel for sin and corruption. But when Cora – a farmer’s daughter – befriends a rogue rabbit named Basajaun, she becomes enmeshed in a hierarchy of sentient rabbit armies and ceremony. Soon the secret behind the rabbits’ plight is unravelling, and Cora is fighting to save the lives of those she loves – as well as her own.

I love stories involving sentient animals. My first encounter with talking animals was within CS Lewis’s Narnia and after that I steadily made my way through a list of classics; Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Duncton Chronicles by William Horwood, The Wind of the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Fluke by James Herbert, to name but a few. I recently interviewed a new, up and coming author who stated that he avoided using talking animals as it was too “cheesy”; I understand where he was coming from but give me a book with nattering beasts in and I am very happy thank you!

In writing, and self-publishing Basajaun, Rosemary Van Deuren has created a solid period piece featuring rabbits - like Watership Down - and humans – unlike Watership Down. A look at the author’s blog shows that the author has a passion for Watership Down and for rabbits in general. Luckily though, the author has not simply re-hashed Richard Adams’s work but created an original and memorable tale that young adults and older children will certainly enjoy.

The title character Basajaun is a rabbit and, along with the twelve-year old Cora, the fulcrum of the story. Their friendship and adventures are central to all the happens but Van Deuren’s best creation is the Pastor, the villain of the peace and an imposing, yet ultimately sympathetic figure. Other highlights include Cora’s father Wayne and the indomitable ground-hog Maju.

The narrative is well-written and for a self-published book, very precise. The sentence structure is firm and there are amazingly few typos. The setting for the novel is 20th century Europe and while the time is excellently reproduced there are times when the feel was more that of America than Europe. This may be in no small part due to the Americanised spellings of favour, honour etc… which always has the effect on Americanising a narrative.

Basajaun is a shining beacon for self-published work, fans of Richard Adams and William Horwood will find this an enjoyable and worthwhile read.

Rosemary Van Deuren has worked previously as a freelance illustrator, sculptor and painter for magazines, books and galleries. She currently lives in the United States, in Michigan. Basajaun is her first novel.

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