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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Watership Down by Richard Adams

I have finally come to the end of the rabbity journey that was Watership Down by Richard Adams. Overall, I found the book delightful. On its surface it is a thrilling survival adventure, but it's also a story about community, faith, fearlessness, and oral histories.

Throughout the narrative, Adams pauses to allow the bunnies to tell stories of their bunny ancestors. I think it would be easy to dismiss these narrative breaks as momentum killers or unnecessary nuisances, but for me they added a complexity to the story that made the rabbit characters feel more real and more alive than if it had simply been a children's-book-style narrative with complex human thoughts ascribed directly to the animal characters.

It actually reminded me of the original epic poems that A.S. Byatt wrote for Possession and ascribed to her Victorian era epic poet characters. By taking the time to write and include those, it added a completeness to the book that would have been missing if she simply referred to single lines here and there.

Watership Down wasn't at all what I was expecting, and while the ending thrilled me, it left me with that bitter sweetness that I would never spend any more time with those characters.

Goodnight, Hazel-rah.

5 comments:

Sven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sven said...

I'm glad to hear the book worked out for you. I too hate the bitter sweet ending to a good book. Did they do a 19 years later thing where all the rabbits are married to each other and have little rabbits named after their heroes?

dang, i just made myself feel bad.

Stephanie said...

Aw! You're making me miss Harry!

stu said...

You can never have too many bunnies... except possibly in Australia.

randika said...

Oh man, you said the magic words, "Oral History." Now I'm just jonesing to read it again. For more Adams goodness you might want to try "Traveller". It's the Civil War as told by Robert E. Lee's horse and never has a book about such an awful thing been more humanizing. While horses are not little rabbits, you can almost believe this one is a person.