Michelle's Reviews > Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard  Adams
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites

The premise of “Watership Down” may sound ridiculous. To put it simply: it's the story of a bunch of rabbits who leave their comfortable (but doomed) home,and try to make a new and better one, a couple of square miles away. It should be ridiculous. Come on -- bunnies?!
Oh, but it’s not ridiculous at all! It is epic! Distance, as we measure it, is irrelevant. What a human (arrogant lord of the earth) traverses without a thought in just a few strides, is a vast and terror-filled expanse to a ten-inch-tall animal at the bottom of the food chain. This tension was beautifully captured, and thrummed throughout the book.

It can be difficult to explain how a book about rabbits can feel so touchingly human. What the characters have to go through is totally relatable. In “Watership Down”, Hazel and the other rabbits have to figure out who they want leading them, whom they trust, what they want their home to be like, and what they're willing to sacrifice in order to make their world the way they want it to be. "What sort of world do I want to live in?", is the question that Hazel and his rabbits ask themselves when they go out to start a new home. This is the same question that each of us have to ask and act on as we go out and try to make a life for ourselves, especially when we're young and questing out into the world to find (or make) a place for us.
This life-or-death question gets asked whenever Hazel's rabbits meet a group of rabbits who are living according to certain choices. (view spoiler) We may not face the exact dangers that Hazel's rabbits face -- no farmer is going to kill and cook us (we hope). But we do have to ask ourselves these questions about our values and which values we value more.

Many contemporary authors could learn from Richard Adams on how to create characters that a reader can believe in and commit to. Few human characters that I have read in recent books can compare in depth and dimension to the rabbits of Watership Down. Trying to choose a favorite is impossible -- Hazel is of course the hero; but my heart also belongs to Big Wig, Fiver and Pipkin for their courage; and to Blackberry and Dandelion for their lightness of spirit.

The creation of a culture and language for the rabbits, and other creatures, rivals Tolkien’s masterpieces. I loved the rabbit constructions to try to label human concepts. I loved the fables reminiscent of the Brer Rabbit tales that offered deeper insight into the culture, and the life lessons gently taught through the various adventures in creating the new warren. It was only halfway through the book (maybe further)that it struck me that these tales, which were supposed to be timeless and ancient, all featured men who smoked cigarettes, and drove cars and trucks. And then, by the end of the book, it all made sense. For one thing, twenty or ten years ago is ancient history to a rabbit who packs all of his own adventures into, perhaps, three quick years. Another more important thing is that the tales of El-ahrairah are not concrete and set in stone, but an oral history which grows with the generations. That moment towards the end of the book that proves this also brought home to me, with a greater clarity, how utterly beautiful Richard Adams's portrait of lapine culture is. How extraordinarily wonderful the whole picture of rabbit-kind is.

I used to think that rabbits were just cute, floppy-eared carrot-eaters with a penchant for hopping. After this read, I will never be able to look at them the same way ever again!
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Reading Progress

May 15, 2017 – Started Reading
May 15, 2017 – Shelved
May 28, 2017 – Finished Reading
July 28, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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Sharon One of my favorite books of all time! Wonderful review!


message 2: by Michelle (last edited Apr 06, 2018 10:53AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Michelle Sharon wrote: "One of my favorite books of all time! Wonderful review!"

Thank you!


message 3: by Len (new) - rated it 5 stars

Len Evans Jr This was one of my favorites when I read it in high school.. have since reread it multiple times and it never gets old.


Michelle Len wrote: "This was one of my favorites when I read it in high school.. have since reread it multiple times and it never gets old."

It's one of mine now too.


Beverly One of my favorite books of all time. Great review Michelle!


Michelle Beverly wrote: "One of my favorite books of all time. Great review Michelle!"

Thank you, Beverly!


message 7: by Paula (new)

Paula Kalin Sounds wonderful. Excellent review, Michelle! Love anything about animals!


Michelle Paula wrote: "Sounds wonderful. Excellent review, Michelle! Love anything about animals!"

Thank you, Paula!


Beverly Masterful review Michelle! This is one of my all time favorites.


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