Wednesday, March 08, 2006

12. Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down pictureThe momentum from the beginning of the year has started to dissipate. I've been very distracted these last couple of weeks, and though I can point to a number of valid explanations (new job, two new volunteer projects, three deaths, Diplomacy) I have spent way too much time futzing around on the internet, doing nothing of significance. That thing is becoming like television to me. That's bad.

I read Watership down consistenly but slowly, perhaps a chapter or two a night. It's a shame because my distraction was so high that I had trouble getting into the book at first. It's a testament to the craft of it's writing that by the last third, I really couldn't be distracted. It is really an exciting adventure, structured and written to keep the reader engaged. Another reason for my initial slowness was fear. I had seen the movie as a kid and I don't remember much but the ear shredding. The book starts out on such an ominous note that I was spending quite a lot of time waiting in trepidation for the hammer to fall, for some terrible thing to happen to these good bunnies. Moreover, there is a powerful sense throughout the whole book that this terrible thing has already happened, that the land where these rabbits lived has all been torn up for development. Watership Down really is a cry of love for the rural countryside and it's delicate and proper management.

I can't help but to compare it with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Watership Down is slower (until the end), more complex and perhaps closer to reality. The rabbits communicate, but their perception of the world is limited (they don't understand what bridges or boats are or how they work). Adams also pays a lot of attention to their biological behaviour, much more so than is done in NIMH. He has also built a complex religion, history and culture based on the rabbit's biology that gives Watership Down a lot more depth.

Overall, it's a cracking good read, a great adventure story. You should read it and it should be read to children.


Jason L said...

It really is an amazing book when you think about it. One gets so wrapped up in the characters even though they are so anthropomorphized.

Good on you for revisiting it.

Crumbolst said...

This book has been jostled around the top five on my must read list for about a year. But you've got me motivated, so it's going to be next.

meezly said...

Watership Down was in my top 50 list... now it's in my top 5 to be read in 2006.