Review: Watership Down

TITLE: Watership Down
AUTHOR: Richard Adams
PUBLICATION: 2009 by Scribner
FORMAT: Paperback


A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over thirty years, Richard Adam’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.


I have encountered mixed reactions to this book over the past few years. I did borrow a copy from a friend at school over the summer but never got around to it so the book was returned untouched. However, I now had a copy of my own that I bought at a little bookstore I like to visit. It was one of those cases where I hated to leave the bookstore without a book, you know?

Adams has a charming prose style. I could feel the quaintness and felt that I understood what it was to be a rabbit in his hands. I adore rabbits so it was nice to have a book that focused on them. Considering how much I liked Erin Hunter’s Warriors saga, I imagined I would get on right well with this modern classic. This book had all the makings of a story that I could like, but…

I failed to truly click with Watership Down. I am not entirely sure why, but I think it mostly had to do with the characters. Yes, I love rabbits, but I wasn’t really falling over myself for these rabbits. You would imagine I’d enjoy Fiver at least with his obvious characterization based upon Cassandra of Troy due to my empathy for the believed-to-be mad, but alas not even that elicited my fancy. And when I realized that all the rabbits leaving the warren doomed to be developed for a human project were male, the thought occurred to me, “Did no one think to bring some girls along?” It only too about two hundred pages for our group of rabbits to reach the same conclusion. For a long time I assumed Hazel was female too, and I think because it seems such an odd name to be possessed of by a male character. And you think he would learn to listen to advice. Nonetheless who risks so much only to allow enemy rabbits from a tyrannical warren to leave alive with the knowledge of where your home is?

Although I do confess that I enjoyed the messages that Adams is getting across in his novel regarding human encroachment of the remaining wilderness. And the moments where he compares the reactions of rabbits to those of humans in similar situations. Would life be better were we all to behave as the rabbits do? I do see it as an interesting prospect.

It was a well-written story, but ultimately I couldn’t really connect with it and I found it somewhat of a bore. I probably might have abandoned it for more interesting books if I hadn’t bought it.



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