By Samuel Smith
I will never, ever forget my Mother’s reaction when, as a four-year-old, I asked her to read me ‘THE BUNNY BOOK’ (Richard Adams’ Watership Down). If she was holding a glass/cup/plate/bowl/breakable object at the time, there is no doubt in my mind that it would have fallen to the floor and smashed into millions of pieces. After staring at me as if I had asked her to read a verse from Satan’s memoirs, she managed to choke out something along the lines of: ‘MAYBE PETER RABBIT WOULD BE…BETTER.’ Sadly my memory of the event ends here, but for closure’s sake let’s say she ended up running into another section of the house, screaming and pulling her hair out.
If you hadn’t already guessed, the bunny book is not for children. The story starts when a psychic rabbit named Fiver foresees death and destruction, ultimately urging his entire warren to relocate. The rabbits have their own language (prepare to familiarise yourself with names such as Thethuthinnang and Hyzenthlay), their own spiritual beliefs (Lord Frith: the creator and destroyer) and their own beliefs about life and death.
While Adams does an excellent job portraying the Rabbits’ relationships and journeys, it’s Watership Down’s ‘gory details’ that really make it shine. Readers will be confronted with visions of mass genocide, fields filled with blood, and rabbits literally tearing each other apart. The sense of animalistic fear that Adams manages to convey is nothing short of incredible.
Watership Down takes readers on a journey into their inner animal psyche. Adams’ ability to involve the reader in the rabbit’s world is exceptional, but at the same time, downright terrifying.
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