Book Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down - Richard Adams

The Basics


Hazel and Fiver’s current home is soon to be demolished, but the way in which they know this involves Fiver’s psychic powers, so it’s kind of hard for them to get anyone to listen to them. They gather what few compatriots will follow and set out for a safer home, and many adventures ensue that threaten their very lives. Oh yeah, and they’re all rabbits.


My Thoughts


Most everyone has heard about this book. They’ve heard the phrase, “it’s like Lord of the Rings with rabbits!” And there has been dubious eyebrow raising and scoffing laughter, I can well imagine. I wheedled about it myself.


Well, stop it. Stop that judgmental crap right now and go read this book. Rabbits or no, these are some of the richest, most well-written characters to grace literature. This book is beautifully paced and absolutely worthy of the cliche “page turner”. It’s a fantasy world as fascinating as any I’ve read and steeped in its own mythology and legends with its own language. If you love fantasy, this book is for you. If you’re an animal lover, this book is for you. If you love literature and classics, this book is for you. I can’t think of anyone who should pass this up.


Adams does something noteworthy here. He makes rabbits relatable and human. Yet he also makes them just alien enough that it never occurs to you to picture them as anything but rabbits. He balances these two in such a way that neither overwhelms the other. Their world is tangible, and as a reader, you won’t question it. But it’s not our world, and you’ll feel that, too, and want to learn more. Out of all the fantasy races I’ve seen over time, Adams manages to make rabbits one of the most well-thought-out of the bunch.


My last thought is to parents of small children. Stop giving your kids this book. Unless they’re very mature kids, which some are, granted. It’s actually kind of dark and scary and violent. Just because the protagonists are rabbits doesn’t mean it’s something sweet and fuzzy. Rabbits are prey to pretty much every, other animal, and this book deals with that in spades. You read it. You’d like it. But don’t give it to your kids.


Final Rating