Monday, March 9

12x12: Watership Down

Watership Down
by Richard Adams

I don't remember when I first read this book, but I would have been in middle school or high school. I don't even know where or how I found this book... I just know that I read it, fell completely in love, and never looked back. This book was one of the reasons I insisted on reading "old" books this year - because I couldn't go another year without reading it. It's too hard for me to miss the characters and the adventures they go on. When I read a book that I deeply love (like this one), it feels like I've been holding my breath without realizing it, then suddenly I sigh and take in a new breath. Certain stories just do that to me, and Watership Down is one of them.

What I Loved:
  • Oh gosh, where do I start? Well, I've had a fantasy since I was a child of just leaving and setting off on an adventure with no foreseeable destination. The plot of Watership Down is really similar to that - these rabbits set off to escape danger and find a new home, and only one of them really has an idea where they're going. It's an adventure in every sense of the word! It makes me feel like I'm traveling with them across every page!
  • The characters are all rabbits who act and think and communicate like rabbits, but they're anthropomorphized just enough to have them think in English. It's so well thought-out that it feels weirdly natural for these rabbits to be speaking. The author did a TON of research on rabbits before writing the book, so besides the talking, they really do act like rabbits. I learned so much about rabbits just by reading this book!
  • The characters aren't subtle, but they are lovable, relatable, and vivid! They mature as the story goes on - as they learn more about each other, their strengths and weaknesses, who to trust, and what they need as individuals. Each rabbit plays a part in making their warren better, and I think that has always really spoken to me. The main characters are all relatable in different ways, which actually says a lot because they're rabbits, haha.
  • It shows the marriage, not just the wedding. You know in romantic dramas or comedies where the whole movie is the relationship, and then they're getting married or they get together finally, and then the movie's over? This book isn't like that. They spend the first 2/3 of the book trying to get to this new place to live, and it doesn't stop there! It keeps going and confronts "real" issues past the goal, which I think is both fun and very realistic.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:
  • The rabbits have this cool culture, but part of it includes story-telling. Now, this isn't necessarily a negative. The stories are all chapter-length, and while they're nice to read once or twice, reading the stories take up SO much time and really don't add that much to the ultimate story. I usually just gloss over them and get back to the main storyline.
  • This is part of its charm, but it was written in the 70's and it shows. The author is clearly part of a war generation, which I really hadn't noticed until I re-read one of the mini-stories again this time around. It was about this rabbit war, and once the hero returns (in a time warp), the young rabbits are all complaining about the older, ex-military rabbits. They're saying things about how war is so useless and how the old rabbits dwell too much on the past, and as the reader, you can tell that the author is clearly writing about the hippie generation and thinks these "young rabbits" are stupid and disrespectful of the sacrifice they were given.
  • As a feminist and woman, I have to point this out, even though I take it with a grain of salt: the female rabbits, with a few exceptions, are viewed mostly as tools for digging warrens and breeding. It's never romantic, and only near the end is it slightly respectful. Most of the female rabbits don't have a personality or really any semblance of respect or use besides those uses already mentioned. There is one female rabbit near the end that actually has a personality, but that's about it. It's a very male-rabbit-driven book.

Would I Recommend This Book?
  • Absolutely! As I stated, it's one of my favorite books of all time. It's such a creative idea for a book and it sucks you in. To be fair, the first chapter is a little slow, but it picks up really fast once you get used to the "world" they're living in. If you like animals (or ever pretended to be an animal when you played games with your friends growing up, *coughcough*) and you like to read, this is a great, classic book!

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