Alexis's Reviews > Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard Adams
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Jun 11, 08

Read in May, 2008

** spoiler alert ** this is a great book for nine-year-old boys. i read it last month, so i fail both criteria being neither a boy, nor nine. i ran into a fellow adult reading Watership Down when i was running down to catch the L train and i couldn't believe that both of us were so late in picking up this seemingly required elementary-school reading that i just stood in front of him with my copy until he looked up. we both agreed that the book was riviting, but not very good. here are my gripes with it: as military allegories go, it's not very sophisticated. a plucky band of rabbits, who leave to excape certain death - okay - but who also kind of want to be their own bosses, have great adventures striking out to make a new life for themselves. but (spoiler alert!) not one of the original group dies in the process, which just seems like unrealistic plot manipulation. they're rabbits, they are constantly afraid of death, but if this is about war (which it completely is; everything is told in terms of chain-of-command and loyalty and following orders and strategy and Hazel is without doubt the fearless, benevolent, and clever general leading this band of ALL MALE rabbits to some promised land) then it seems incomplete to constantly be worried about losing a member of your platoon, but never dealing with the emotions or events that come up when it actually happens. a couple times there is the perception that a rabbit has "stopped running" and some other rabbit says (paraphrase) "too bad, but everyone's gonna get it sometime and right now we have to save our hides." but the reader always knows that the presumably fallen rabbit is actually still alive. i get it that it's a kid's book, but i'm of the school that doesn't think kid's literature should wear kid's gloves. but, whatever.
then: i noticed back on page 22 when everyone was leaving the original warren that there were no female rabbits, so what exactly were these guys thinking? but somehow it took Hazel another hundred-fifty pages or so to figure that one out. this is the main reason i would have hated this book as a nine-year-old. it's all dudes. there are no female rabbits until the very end and even they they're pretty much all pathetic. it just doesn't give my nine-year-old self a whole lot to relate to.
that said: it's completely riveting. even when the plot is moving so slowly and it's so obvious where it's going next that it kindof made me want to crawl out of my own skin, i couldn't bring myself to just skip a chapter and resume after everyone's finally figured out that Fiver's never wrong. i had to read every word, just in case. and i consider that a good sign.
also, the World-of-Rabbit that Adams creates is pretty satisfying. he's invented language, cultural customs, and best of all, a religious/mythic history featuring the Prince of All Rabbits, who's clearly a jesus figure but is also the uber-trickster, since that is a rabbit's greatest strength after running fairly fast. the sections of rabbit storytelling were definitely my favorite and i have to give props to Richard for stuffing so much lore into one volume. that's a fun trick.
anyway, it's a great beach or train book if you haven't read it and it will make you look at rabbits differently. it will not change your life.
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message 1: by Akira (new) - added it

Akira this review sucks big time.


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