Watership Down by Richard Adams

April 26, 2012

Plot summary (from the publisher): A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over thirty years, Richard Adams’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.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Some of the rabbit characters were very well developed. I felt by the end of the book I had a very good grasp of what kind of personalities Hazel, Fiver, and Bigwig were. Even Woundwort was given lots of background info and was fleshed out as the main antagonist.
  • The description of Bigwig’s infiltration of and escape from Efrafa was exciting! That was the best part of the entire novel for me, and had me on the edge of my seat.

Disliked:

  • I couldn’t stand all the stories about El-ahrairah. They were long and boring, and served only to interrupt the flow of the main narrative. Sure, they were probably replete with symbolism and meant to show how rabbits got their cunning ways, etc. If there had been one or two such interruptions, I might have been able to handle it. But there were just so. damn. many. UGH!
  • There were a lot of slow parts in the book besides the El-ahrairah stuff. This novel was extremely long, but it certainly didn’t have to be. I think at least 100 pages (and probably more) could be excised without losing a thing.
  • Was the Lapine language really necessary? First of all, the author only included a handful of words, despite saying in the intro that he wanted to create words that rabbits would need but that aren’t available in English because humans don’t need them. So “silflay” is grazing or whatever. But this doesn’t work because it seems that there should have been A LOT more Lapine words necessary to describe unique things in a rabbit’s life. Obviously Adams was trying for something unique there, but the attempt was misguided, IMO. (And BTW, why would they need a word for “hraka” or passing waste? Don’t humans do that too???)
  • I find it hard to believe that the rabbits, upon first leaving their original warren after Fiver’s vision, didn’t think they needed any does with them. That’s kind of a basic requirement when starting a new colony, right?

Rating

I know that Watership Down by Richard Adams is an award-winning classic that is beloved by many generations of children and adults. However, I just couldn’t get into the book very much, and found that the boring, unnecessary parts significantly outweighed the good stuff. In short, this one wasn’t for me at all, so I give it 2 stars out of 5.

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