Book Review: Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard Adams

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 friends, 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.

There is a rabbit saying, “in the warren, more stories than passages” – Richard Adams, Watership Down

I remember watching Watership Down for the first time with my dad when I was 7 or 8. It was one of his favourites. It gave me nightmares, but it still remains to be one of my favourite movies too. And yet, I had never read the book. I’ve started it several times in the last 10 years or so, but I’ve never been in the right mood to actually get very far. At this point, I’m sad that I never truly perservered. I was missing out and didn’t even know it.

Fiver is a young rabbit who gets visions and feelings about things that are going to happen. Possibly it’s sights, or sounds, or smells, but when he gets a bad feeling that something is going to happen at the warren, he and his brother Hazel convince a few others to join them on their quest for a new and safer home. And as it turns out, Fiver is completely right.

Thus, begins the adventure. The small group of rabbits leave their warren in search of greener grass elsewhere. They meet challenges (roads and water), some odd and colourful characters (Cowslip and the depressed rabbits), and experience scares and near-miss disasters along the way. Eventually they find the place that Fiver has envisioned. Watership Down. A high grassy hill in the middle of the British countryside.

It seems like the rabbits’ struggle is over, but it isn’t really. See, no female rabbits embarked on this crazy adventure with Hazel, Fiver, and the others, and so the rabbits of Watership Down quickly realize that they will need to find some if they don’t want their new and perfect warren to just die out. And so they set off again. To a bigger, scarier warren, run by a crazed dictator who is so afraid of an uprising, that the rabbits living there barely get to socialize, nevermind in a larger group.

Watership Down is never dull. There is always something happening, because even when the travelling rabbits are chilling at home or in a nice spot along the route, they are telling tales of rabbits gone by. The story gave me chills, and kept me both hooked and intrigued about what was going to happen next. At one point I simply sat with my mouth open in true horror at what was happening on the pages. But all the way through, I just couldn’t wait to discover what was going to happen next.

This is not a cute, cuddly tale of fluffy bunnies.

Have you read Watership Down? Let me know your thoughts!

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