Thursday, March 26, 2009

Watership Down, a review

Watership Down, by Richard Adams, is just about a perfect book.

The rhythm is wonderful, allowing the book to last for much longer than the average suspense novel. You can actually read a chapter or two and then put it down to come back to later... and even in so doing, you will neither lose interest nor forget the characters. A book about rabbits, it is masterfully crafted throughout to mimic the brain patterns of a rabbit, which is one of its most stunning features. Now and then, in the last section, it slips into a more straightforward, human-type prose, but that is appropriate for the timing and rhythm of the book as well, a rousing final movement to this stirring lapine symphony.

The author writes a compelling forward, explaining how he told these stories to his children in the car on long drives through the country. I can only imagine that his imagination was stirred dually by the scenery of the English countryside and his memories of Peter Rabbit from his own childhood. Watership Down is what I would call Peter Rabbit on steroids. A British man thought of the old Beatrix Potter rabbit stories and then thought, "And what would it take to make these really interesting...?" Suddenly we have big strong buck rabbits-of-war on an epic odyssey, scheming for territory and fighting for their freedom (and sometimes even their lives).

This book made me laugh out loud. I sobbed through a few chapters, and other chapters literally raised the hair on the back of my neck. When you think you can't stand it anymore, Adams inserts a rabbit storyteller with a tale about El-ahrairah, the most fabled rabbit trickster of all time (yes, he even outdoes Br'er Rabbit), to change up the pace and give you a breather, entertaining all the while.

I was sad when I finished this book, because I had enjoyed it so much. But even so, the end was written in such a way that I felt finished and satisfied, like an American after a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. Speaking of Americans, why is it that the British always outwrite us like this?

1 comment:

Lori said...

Hi Ruth!
I've never read Watership Down, but I've seen the cartoon. :) I'll need to read it, by the sounds of it. And I ought to read I Capture the Castle again. I did really love that book.