Mark Lawrence's Reviews > Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard  Adams
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it was amazing

I read this book an age ago. Maybe 40 years ago the first time.

Lots of authors have written animal stories but they tend to be cute little tales where the level of anthropomorphism is such that the rabbits or whatever are practically, or literally, wearing waistcoats and top hats. We only need to look to Wind in the Willows or Beatrix Potter for examples.

Obviously *some* level of making the animals human is required. I suspect a rabbit's true inner monologue would be rather dull even if it could be put into words. But what Richard Adams achieved was something that kept his rabbits much closer to the real creatures, from the details of their living quarters to the unvarnished truth that rabbits eat their own crap.

When Adams' rabbits come into contact with humans we get a true sense of incomprehension, of struggling to make sense of their activities (and technology) within the framework of a very different world view.

Watership Down is a fat book containing a lot of story. The warren has a history. The rabbits as a species have a history, stored in an oral tradition of stories about their gods and heroes.

Disaster visits our hero, the rabbit Hazel, who is neither the quickest, strongest, bravest or cleverest of his fellows, and with a mixed band he sets out across Watership Down on a quest.

Adams gives each of the rabbits a unique and interesting character from which much of the strength of this novel springs. The dynamics in the group, the strengthening friendships, the teamwork used in overcoming challenges ... is all fascinating and even though the rabbits keep doing deeply rabbitty things, it is hard not to think of them as people that you like and care about. There are themes of duty, fate, friendship and love. All human life is here. On four furry feet.

There is high drama, combat, even war. This book will make chills run down your spine as one rabbit defends a run from another. Rabbits! Seriously, think Gandalf stepping out into the balrog's path and declaring "You shall not pass!" or Boromir standing alone against an orc horde. There is in one fight scene a line that has its place high on the list of the best quotes of this sort from any book or film I know. Delivered by a rabbit called Bigwig. It sounds silly now, but when you read it you won't think so.

It would take a colder man than me not to cry at the end of this novel, and possibly several places in between.

I finally got around to reviewing this book despite it being so long since I last read it because Richard Adams died recently, aged 96, and it was best way I could think to commemorate him.

This book is about rabbits but it is stuffed with beauty, fear, passion, and excitement, and it taught me a lot about life. I commend it to your attention.


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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
March 20, 2011 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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seak I loved this one too!


Mark Lawrence Seak wrote: "I loved this one too!"

what's not to love? When Bigwig faces off against General Woundwort and at the end says he's not backing down because his chief rabbit told him to hold the way ... every bit as powerful and emotional as Gandalf's 'you shall not pass' vs the balrog.

And when the rabbit god (prince elraha? frith? it's been too long since I read it) comes for Hazel at the end ... magic.


seak That's great stuff, thanks for bringing back some great memories. I think it's about time for a reread.


message 4: by Vera (new)

Vera Of course, there's war. WWII to be exact. The book is a metaphor for the world as it entered into the second great war - the US wanting isolationism, England battling despite being nearly alone, etc. It was a such an influential book.


Caleb M. This book has always sat on my to be read list but after reading this beautiful poignant review I think its time for me to finally pick it up and enjoy it's story.


message 6: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Hopkins I read this book when I was in high school or earlier. Loved it. I now own this book and will reread someday. RIP Richard Adams.


message 7: by Pat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pat One of my all time favorites - Loved all the characters


message 8: by Mary (new) - added it

Mary Phillips I first read this when I was about 12 and then again to my younger brother shortly thereafter. It's been close to 40 years for me as well, but I remember loving it very much. I think it's time to add it to my to-read list for a revisit.


message 9: by Nerine (new)

Nerine Dorman This book. Had me in tears. Both times.


message 10: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Lawrence Nerine wrote: "This book. Had me in tears. Both times."

& the film! :o


message 11: by Levi (new) - added it

Levi I wasn't a big fan of The Wind in the Willows. It was interesting, but, overall, I wasn't a huge fan of the narrative--it seemed a bit lacking for such an influential book. I'm going to have to read this one. You have piqued my interest!


message 12: by Nerine (new)

Nerine Dorman Mark wrote:

& the film! :o"


Oh. Don't even go there. I can barely listen to the song "Bright Eyes" without tearing up.


message 13: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Lawrence Nerine wrote: "Mark wrote:

& the film! :o"

Oh. Don't even go there. I can barely listen to the song "Bright Eyes" without tearing up."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGyQm...

:D


Valowlie Your review reminded me of everything that I loved about this book, and it makes me want to reread it again. Years later and many more books read later, Watership Down is still my ultimate favourite, and the only book that I collect multiple copies of. I wish everyone on earth would read it.


message 15: by Tanja (new)

Tanja As I sat on the fence about using this as a text for middle schoolers, thinking "MS boys will not want to read a bunny book," I came across this review. If Mark Lawrence gives this book 5 stars, then it's good enough for middle school boys! If they complain, I'll assign them Red Sister to learn their lesson.


message 16: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Lawrence Tanja wrote: "As I sat on the fence about using this as a text for middle schoolers, thinking "MS boys will not want to read a bunny book," I came across this review. If Mark Lawrence gives this book 5 stars, th..."

It has a fair measure of carnage, threat, tension, and war. Good for boys and girls of all ages!


message 17: by A.M. (new) - added it

A.M. Steiner ...and resulted in possibly the most PTSD inducing film of all time. Horribly mis-sold as a Disney-esque animation, it messed me up way more than that time I snuck into the cinema to watch Jaws.


message 18: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan I tried to read it many years ago and couldn't get through the first pages. Maybe will try again.


message 19: by B. (new) - rated it 5 stars

B. "I suspect a rabbit's true inner monologue would be rather dull even if it could be put into words" IDK. I live with three of them and sometimes they're freakin weird and inscrutable. They do know how to zen out, sure, and they're VERY into food...but they can def be violent and strange and playful--and very adventurous as well (esp the does of my current group.) I do remember loving this book, but I also dream of someday writing something that will do justice to the amazing does I've shared my home with... I recall the girls of this book didn't get much depth or story.


message 20: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Kramer A true classic..I read this in high school and loved it.


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