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Down the Rabbit Hole [Paperback]

Juan Pablo Villalobos , Adam Thirlwell , Rosalind Harvey
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2011
Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, dealers, and the odd corrupt politician or two. Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly-comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child's wish.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 130 pages
  • Publisher: And Other Stories (1 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908276002
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908276001
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 389,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A pint-size novel about innocence, beastliness and a child learning the lingo in a drug wonderland. Funny, convincing, appalling, it's a punch-packer for one so small.' Ali Smith, Book of the Year in the Daily Telegraph ------ 'Down the Rabbit Hole is a miniature high-speed experiment with perspective - a deliberate, wild attack on the conventions of literature.' Adam Thirlwell ------ 'That rarest of animals, a book that is, to all intents and purposes, perfect.' Sarah Churchwell, Book of the Year in the New Statesman ------ 'Juan Pablo Villalobos, channeled Mexico's drug wars via the voice of a narco-baron's son in his touching and invigorating Down the Rabbit Hole.' Boyd Tonkin, in his round-up of the year's best fiction, The Independent ------ 'If you're going to have an imprisoned child narrate a novel, then not so much as a word should be out of place. There are no such slips in Juan Pablo Villalobos's debut novella. We have here a control over the material which is so tight it is almost claustrophobic. [...] This is a novel about failing to understand the bigger picture, and in its absence we can see it more clearly.' Nicholas Lezard, Choice of the Week, The Guardian------ 'In Villalobos's small but perfectly formed 2011 debut novel, reality and surreality overlap in a darkly comic tale that offers a fresh take on Mexico's nasty narco-wars.' Laura Diaz, The Best Books on Mexico, The Guardian ------ 'The cumulative parodic effect is chillingly powerful.' Edward King, Sunday Times ------ 'Juan Pablo Villalobos brilliantly encapsulates the chaos of a lawless existence in which, under the sway of drug lords, anything might happen and everything goes. [...] Down the Rabbit Hole is an astonishing debut from Villalobos' Lucy Popescu, The Independent ------ 'Villalobos creates Tochtli's half-corrupt, half-innocent world [...] with a brilliant, tragi-comic light touch.' Jane Shilling, Daily Mail 'Refreshingly original' Angel Gurria-Quintana, FT ------ 'For anyone interested in point of view in creative writing 'Down the Rabbit Hole' is a masterclass.' Kate Pullinger ------ 'Mexican author Villalobo's first novel offers an original and darkly comic portrayal of Mexico's drugs scene. Translator Rosalind Harvey seamlessly recreates Tochtli's distinctive voice - with his flights of fancy and half-understood truths, this is clearly the voice of a child, but one who is losing his innocence ahead of his time.' Book Trust ------ 'A beautifully realised short novel that narrates the daily life of a powerful drug lord ensconced in his palatial hideaway, seen through the clear eyes of his young son ... A brief and majestic debut that converts the 'drug novel' into a fascinating narrative.' Matias Nespolo, El Mundo ------ 'Despite the - apparent - naivety with which the story is told, despite the fact that the child speaks as if he were a child telling a story (and herein lies the irony and acid humour of Villalobos) this child is in actual fact the son of an extremely powerful drugs lord and we quickly recognise the nature of his environment - This is the precise point of view with which Villalobos has chosen to view this narco-reality within a Mexican context.' Javier Goni, El Pais ------ 'Don't miss this refreshing little novel, even if it is only to enjoy the delicious literary comfort that allows us to endure the sordid, cruel reality of the world it describes.' Enrique Garcia Fuentes, Hoy de Extremadura ------ 'With this book we have discovered Juan Pablo Villalobos, a linguistic virtuoso able to penetrate the elusive world of literature, shedding light on many of its mysteries.' Jose Antonio Aguado, Diari de Terrassa ------ 'Down the Rabbit Hole is an dazzling and unsettling literary exercise - Villalobos plays with a double-edged sword: the horror of our reactions as readers is contrasted with the almost trivial way the narrator describes his daily existence - Down the Rabbit Hole could well become a classic of the genre. A novel that breaks our hearts (which we knew were already broken, but which still hurt) and invites us both to laugh and inevitably to reflect on the political subtext, highly relevant in a contemporary context.' Ricardo Garcia Mainou, El Economista ------ 'With Down the Rabbit Hole, Juan Pablo Villalobos has made a dramatic entrance into the literary world. It is a book that must be read for its great aesthetic value and darkly humorous tone. A book that throws a clear light on a dark subject.' Teresa Garcia Diaz, Amerika ------ 'Amidst this boom of so-called "narco-literature", Villalobos has managed to avoid lapsing into moralism through the voice of his child narrator, which is strange and cruel in its innocence' Gabriela Wiener, El Pais

About the Author

Juan Pablo Villalobos was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1973. He now lives in Madrid, Spain, and has two Mexican-Brazilian-Italian-Catalan children. Down the Rabbit Hole is his first novel and is being translated into seven languages.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raw Deal 11 Dec 2011
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is a good translation from the original Spanish of a well-written novella from the viewpoint of a young Mexican boy. Tochtli, whose father is a drug baron. For obvious reasons, Tochtli lives in a bizarre heavily-guarded world of obscene luxury, and brutal amorality, where his father allows him to see men being tortured, as part of ensuring he grows up to be suitably macho, and Tochtli casually announces that the corpses of those who have fallen foul of his father end up being fed to the lions and tiger kept in cages in the garden. The boy is obsessed with death, body parts and the number of bullets needed to kill people, according to the organ damaged. His corrupted child's perception of the world is darkly tragicomical, his misreading of situations, such as the visits of a prostitute for his father, sometimes amusing, his casual acceptance of violence and lack of "normal" feeling are often shocking although understandable.

This is an imaginative but bleak parody of the predicament of a child, subject to a distorted socialisation, deprived of the company of other children so unable to relate to them, indulged by having his every material whim satisfied, even to the extent of being taken to Liberia to capture a pair of the pygmy hippopotami with which he has become obsessed, bored by the narrow repetition of his daily life. His only real moment of closeness with his father is when the latter says that one day Tochtli will have to kill him to save his honour i.e from gaol, like a samurai in one of the violent films they love to watch.

Something of a "one trick pony" in the essential point made, the book can be read too quickly for you to worry that you may have wasted your time.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and unsettling 7 Sep 2011
By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The narrator of this novella is the child of a Mexican drug lord living in lonely luxury in a heavily guarded palace. Tochtli is both childishly innocent and also horribly knowledgeable about things like bullets, corpses, and their disposal.

Juan Pablo Villalobos (and Rosalind Harvey the translator) have got Tochtli's voice spot on. This child's obsessions (hats and Liberian pygmy hippopotamuses among other things), petulant scorn, and relish in words like 'sordid', 'immaculate', and 'enigmatic', are amusing and charming. The reader, however, is also aware of the loneliness of Tochtli's life and the dangerous undercurrents of his father's business. A sense of unease, which sometimes turns into outright horror, is present throughout.

I very much enjoyed this novella (ideally read in one sitting) and I felt immersed in its world, admiring what Villalobos reveals through the voice of his naive narrator. "Down the Rabbit Hole" which is the first publication of the small press And Other Stories is nicely presented and comes with both a glossary explaining some of the Mexican references and an introduction by Adam Thirlwell.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alice in Mexico 20 July 2013
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Down The Rabbit Hole is a short, sharp tribute to Alice in Wonderland, translating the story to the heavily fortified palace of Yolcaut, a Mexican drug lord. The story is told by Yolcaut's seven year old son, Tochtli, who may or may not be precocious. He has certainly been inducted early into the world of adults. His father sees him as part of the gang and has done nothing to shield Tochtli from the violence and threats that are part of the drug lord's daily existence. But for all the wealth, Tchtli is unhappy. He has no friends of his own age; he is privately tutored and only occasionally leaves the palace.

Tochtli is on his was to becoming a little emperor. Most adults do what he tells them, simply because they are afraid of Yolcaut. This gives Tochtli power that he doesn't have the maturity to understand. He is unable to see the damage he does to himself as he indulges his every whim; and nor does he see the damage he inflicts on others. He obsesses about the mechanics of killing - the number of bullets required in a particular location to turn a person into a corpse; or the semantic difference between a corpse and human remains; but he makes no real link to the permanence or impact of death. He also has a fascination with hats.

Half way through the novella, Tochtli decides he wants Liberian pygmy hippopotamus. He asks his father's staff to get him one and, because none can be found in Mexico, they all hare off to Monrovia to try to catch one. The grotesqueness of Tochtli's confined world in Mexico is swapped for a vast, wide open space in Liberia where the scale of everything is wrong. The hippos are small; the child is bossing the adults; the distribution of wealth is wonky.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Through the Looking Glass darkly 27 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Life with a South American drug baron through the all seeing but not all comprehending eyes of his 10 year-old son.

I think I myself am too naive to be able to join the dots properly - in the end the truth of the events described remained obscure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but short 10 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Enjoyed this v much but was too short- just as I was getting my teeth into it it was over- problem of ebooks is you can't judge how many pages are left in the same way you can with a paperback. Would recommend.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Tochtli in Wonderland
'Down the Rabbit Hole' is a slight novel about life inside the bizarre world of a Mexican drug baron as seen through the eyes of Tochtli, a nine-year old boy. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Sofia
1.0 out of 5 stars maybe too short
Could be definitely tagged interesting at first reading, but I have to say I found the storytelling quite irritating in the end. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dv
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious read
This book seemed to promise much more than it delivered The perspective of the young boy is interesting at first but soon palls. read to the end on principle but was not enthralled
Published 10 months ago by purpleartist44
3.0 out of 5 stars slight misfit?
a bit of a misfit for me between serious topic and child's naive understanding and expression of it all. An ok read though
Published 11 months ago by a purchaer
3.0 out of 5 stars Down the Rabbit hole
Dident think much about this book so i realy would not recommend it.Dont now what else to say.You should not tell people how much they should say about a book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mrs Patricia R Grant
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Very good, interesting, different, not a thriller, which I usually go for, but very gripping, thoughtful, I'd certainly read another by this author. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Terry
2.0 out of 5 stars like catcher in the rye, but less enjoyable
A lot like catcher in the rye but less enjoyable.
The story was interesting and the view point from the child was interesting but it wasn't as captivating as the reviews led... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Gavin Jefferson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Really enjoyed reading it but wish it was longer! I had read it in a couple of hours and am glad I didn't pay full price, as it is quite a short story. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Louise
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
Very cleverly written. Seemingly about a small child in a violent adult world however, it is a message about the dangers of allowing our children to be brainwashed by the never... Read more
Published 18 months ago by DME2707
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Debut Novella
All Tochtli, the seven year old narrator of `Down the Rabbit Hole' wants in life is to have a Liberian pygmy hippopotamus. Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2012 by Simon Savidge Reads
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