Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Watership Down by Richard Adams

genre: anthropomorphic fantasy

I'm trying to remember the first time I heard about this book.  Middle School?  Someone said it was really good and I should read it.  But then I heard it was about rabbits.  And so I decided to never read it because rabbit books are not really for me.

Except then I had a sixth grade daughter.  I've committed to read along with her in her book studies at school, as much as I can, so I can be of help when needed.

Her teacher assigned her to read Watership Down.  What's a mom to do?  I started it.

And then I sort of got to liking it.  And then the school year ENDED and they hadn't finished the book (um, lame, yes?). I let it sit on my nightstand for a few days.  I was really just going to take it back to the library.  But imagine this - I started caring!  I'd look at it sitting on my nightstand and I thought about how I sort of had to find out what happened to our hero Hazel and his warren of rabbit comrades.  I knew they had already braved so many adventures since escaping a terrible fate but I was actually curious to find out what else they would have to conquer before finding a safe place where they could settle and raise families.   Really!  Rabbits were having adventures!  And I was into them! 

The interesting thing is that yes, they are clearly rabbits.  Our author Mr. Adams has so seamlessly woven true animal behavior into every character that I feel like a rabbit expert.  Yet, this is a very political story.  It's a story in which characters have to grow into roles that at first seem to big for them.  It's a story about being willing to make friends with "people" that are very different from you but who have a lot to offer.  It's about being willing to die for something bigger than yourself.  It's about learning when to listen and when to act.

I'm not going to lie.  I liked this book.  I didn't love it, but I found it totally worthwhile.  While there was a tendency to get a bit wordy and descriptive, the plot itself is astonishingly rich for just being about a bunch of rabbits.  I can see why an English teacher would assign it - there is a lot to think about.  Besides the rich and complex folk history that the rabbits use to guide their lives, there are  some pretty deep ideas about trust and leadership and group behavior. 

Now I can take it back to the library and feel satisfied.


bermudaonion said...

I skipped this book for the same reason you did - because it's about rabbits. I'm glad you ended up liking it.

Biblibio said...

I've heard of so many readers who dismissed Watership Down because it's about rabbits, but I think it's entirely irrelevant. If looked at as a fantasy book, the nature of the creature is not important. If looked at as a parable, it's doubly irrelevant.

The truth is that Watership Down is simply a good book, regardless the species of its main characters. Adams did a great job creating real rabbit characters, and the story is exciting and entertaining. There's backstory, excellent world-building, and some truly lovely writing. It's the type of animal fantasy I think should appeal to most readers. Always nice to hear someone else enjoyed it!

Julie @ Read Handed said...

My fifth grade teacher read this book to us bit by bit throughout the year. Our class loved it. I have yet to reread it as an adult, but I am looking forward to it because of my fond memories of Mr. Soposnik. :)

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