I’ve been a huge fantasy reader since around fifth grade. So how on earth did I miss Watership Down while I was in school? Did our library not have a copy? Was its reputation as a “classic” a deterrent to friends who might have told me of its existence? Whatever the case, I had never even heard of Watership Down until the later years of college. The people who raved about the book then were generally hipster guys, beating everyone else over the head with their favorite novel. Obviously, that was a huge turn off for me. So I never picked up this book until this month (October of 2017), for a bookclub I recently joined. Man, do I regret waiting so long. On the other hand, it’s pretty amazing to discover what would have been a childhood favorite as an adult, and be able to embrace it as a new favorite that can stand proudly next to older favorites on your bookshelf.
Watership Down is the tale of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and other young buck rabbits who leave their home to establish their own warren. Their adventure is fraught with peril and risk, but ingenuity and courage and just plain luck carry them through. I won’t get into details. I don’t want to give anything away, because I really believe that everybody should, at some point in their lives, read this book. It’s a classic for a reason. And the reason is that the story is compelling and well-written and so real that you can smell the grass on Watership Down and feel the heat of the summer sun.
One of my favorite things about the novel was Adams’ use of epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. It was fun to figure out why the author had chosen each epigraph, as they always related somehow to the plot of that particular chapter. The material he referenced was vastly varied, and added to the entertainment for me. Bookworms love literary references! The mythology that Adams created for the rabbits was wonderful, as well, breaking up the main story nicely and providing some levity.
Another thing I really enjoyed about Watership Down was the fact the author’s rabbits were just that: rabbits. Some of my favorite books from childhood featured anthropomorphic characters. Starting with the Alphapets books that helped teach me to read and carrying on into the worlds of Narnia and Redwall, many of my favorite literary animals were pretty much people with fur and tails. They walked like us, ate like us, and dressed like us. Not so with Hazel and the other rabbits of Watership Down. They were rabbits through and through, with the diets and problems and life expectancies and mannerisms that I would expect from a rabbit.
This review is pretty much just a long, muddled way for me to say, “Hey, you. You should really read this book.”
Review originally written in October of 2017.
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