Watership Down by Richard Adams (spoilers)

So July’s book for our family book club was Watership Down by Richard Adams. Now I’ll be honest I have wanted to read this book for a long time, which is how it ended up on our booklist for the year. However, if it hadn’t been for the book club I probably wouldn’t have ended up finishing the book. It was not by any means a bad book. I just have read a lot of political theory and war books. So initially I gave it a pretty average rating of 3 stars.

Now this was by now means a bad book. It was in fact a really excellently constructed traditional adventure story. It’s got a band of heroes hoping and searching for a new and idealistic future. In traditional fantasy sense the band of adventures are all extraordinary, except for our main hero. Like many who come before him Hazel’s main skill seems to be identifying the talented ones who have gone unnoticed or underutilized.  He is constantly kind and caring and but not Fiver and Bigwig are the actual saviors of the warren.

It was also a traditional fantasy in that it uses a fantstical veil (of rabbits) to discuss political. In this both the feminist struggle of the time and 4 different systems of government (bureaucracy, puppet (colonialism), military dictatorship, and a commune). Because it is through the guise of rabbits and rabbit lore it is all easily digestible. I do get that is a great introduction to political theory without having to talk about the actual theories. Now I think the overall quality of rabbitness does help in this messaging. They are cute, timid, quick decision makers and have real palpable concerns that they communicate well. There is also no romantic or sexual attractions, like 99% of all animals rabbits only have sexual relations for procreation not pleasure. There for Hyzenthlay and Lapine’s struggle was given real consideration for it’s merits and their intelligence and not just in becoming a love interest.

Now typically in books I really like epitaphs at the beginnings of chapers, sections, books. I think they add to the story and give more insight to the what is coming next or set the mood or give general insight to the world. In Watership Down however, it was one of the reasons I thought about DNFing. The quotes are all from notable thinkers about life, community, fairness, etc. and they were all almost exactly what the chapter was about or what Hazel and co. would learn. I felt that I could read the epitaphs and not the book. I understand that is was trying to apply and make these lessons understandable, but it felt more like hey this comes from a really smart places and not… this is life and how all living things can come together and be better.

I like the book. I think it is remarkably well written. But I think if you have read a lot in genre it may be harder to get through.

P.S. my favorite rabbit was Blackberry. He was soooo cute! and quite a scene stealer. Who was your favorite.


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