Saturday, January 6, 2007

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Brent and I read this book at the same time, and I finished first, beating him by only a hare. Ha!

Seriously, though. I was quite impressed with this book. Watership Down is often called a children's book that adults will appreciate, but I feel it's the opposite--an adult's book that children will appreciate. It's about rabbits, yes, okay, but the themes that abound--the fear of death, the importance of religion and mythology, the composition of the perfect state--are all there. Here's what I really liked about this book:

The language: Adams wrote this book as if the rabbits' dialogue were translated from a strange rabbit language called Lapine, complete with footnotes to justify his translations. It's gimmicky, but it provides a great insight into the rabbits' culture, as every language does. For example, one of the main characters was the fifth in his litter, but rabbits can only count to four; every number after that is hrair, or a thousand. This rabbit's name is Hrairoo, or "little thousand", because of his birth, but Adams translates this as "Fiver."

The characters: This book has a massive cast of rabbits, of which I'd say ten or fifteen have really well-developed personalities. Perhaps most interestingly, Adams rarely deigns to bestow these rabbits with more "humanity" than they really have; they struggle with concepts like boats and poetry, and much of the book is about the struggle between adapting to the strange world into which they are cast and maintaining their traditional ways. Their social dynamics are not human, they are very much rabbit-like (one might call this a Naturalist work like something of Jack London), but Adams manages to carve out very human personalities for them within those dynamics.

The plot: This book is intense. I bet the fight scenes in this book are more captivatingly written than in a lot of war novels.

Okay, so next week we go back to school and I won't be able to keep this pace up. But hopefully having three under my belt will give me a leg up when crunch time comes around in eleven months or so.

No comments: