on 11 May 2004
"The primroses were over. Towards the edge of the wood, where the ground became open..." - Richard Adams, Watership Down.
The title about says it all. I have cried at this book more often than I can remember; I get a shiver up my spine just hearing those opening words. I currently have four copies of the book, in varying states of disrepair, and on VHS video and DVD. There is just no other book like it. I apologise for the bad writing of this review, but it is impossible to be even slightly objective about something which has affected you so much growing up. By the age of 12 or 13, I had already read it numerous times.
Adams' simply gorgeous description of the countryside and the true beauty of the world is fantastically balanced with the grim and evil reality the humans bring to the world of the rabbits. I cannot quite place why I love this book, it is just something which exists so perfectly in your soul. If you are sitting on a crowded commuter train, or you are on the eve of a fated deadline, or more down in the dumps than you have ever been, you can pick up Watership Down and immediately escape into a world where the only things that matter are survival and the bonds you make with close friends going through traumatic and dangerous experiences. These rabbits do not know of human "troubles", and this is what makes this story so appealing: the INNOCENCE of it all. The pure pleasure of not caring.
The film has much the same effect, however I do feel it focuses on a different part of the story. The portrayal of Fiver's troubled mind is often chilling, and I would not recommend the film for very young children (as I know it scared me when I was younger!). However, the beautiful animation by Martin Rosen and his team fits the magnificence of Adams' writing perfectly, and the voices of such legends as John Hurt, Richard Briers and Roy Kinnear really bring these noble characters to life.
To all of those who knock this book for being "too simple" and the level of reading "too easy", it is because when you read a book it is more than just your eyes moving over the text. You take from a book only what you think yourself. What is wrong with simple? This book has a deep meaning which is very, very simple: the world is beautiful, if you look long enough. There is nothing better than that.
on 8 October 2000
Watership Down tells the story of a bunch of rabbits (Hazel and his brother Fiver, Bigwig, Silver and others) who are forced to leave their warren as Fiver's sixth sense tells him great danger is coming. As they look for a place to settle down, not only do they encounter many enemies along the way, but also other rabbits with different ways of living, and who can sometimes be particularly unfriendly.
They finally find an idyllic place to live: on Watership Down. As they settle down, they suddenly realise they've forgotten about something: females!
The story goes on to describe their raids to capture does and bring them back to their new warren. They first manage to get a hutch female rabbit from a nearby farm, but soon realise that just one female is not enough.
So they make for Efrafa, a warren not far from theirs, only to discover it is run by a certain General Woundwort, a tyrant who thinks of his rabbits as an army. In fact, these rabbits are prisoners, unhappy and unable to escape.
So Hazel, Bigwig and their friends devise a plan to rescue some does, risking their own live in the process.
From this brief outline of the plot and even from the cover of the book, Watership Down may look like a children's book. Do not be fooled: this book is full of violence and cruelty, not just between rabbits and their natural foes, but also among themselves. And you realise early on that, somehow like in George Orwell's Animal Farm, it's fundamentaly a critical view of our own human society, a way of showing us how we also can behave in a barbarous way.
Anyway, I think the book is still suitable for children who will love this great adventure, as Watership Down is aslo full of suspense and once you've started, it's "unputdownable"! Moreover, its characters are very interesting and well developed, and in the end it's extremely amusing, especially when these rabbits take a look at us human beings...
This book is not just for bunny lovers so hop along and get yourself a copy quick! And don't forget it's companion: Tales from Watership Down.
on 25 November 2006
When I was around fifteen my parents and I had this deal where for every "classic" book I bought (and read), they would buy me the usual books I would tend to (Stephen King, Chistopher Pike, in fact, anything with blood and gore). Watership Down was one of classics I bought to keep them happy. However, despite the attitude I had to sitting down to reading this "book about rabbits," it didn't take long for me fall in love with this book. Hard.
I couldn't agree more with the reviewer who talked about the goosebumps he feels every times he reads the opening lines "The primroses were over." The whole book is truely sensational and a classic for a reason.
An amazing, emotive, and beatifully written read. I am now 23, still a fan of blood, gore and all things violent and it's still, by quite a long way, my favourite book - the only close contenders being the Dark Materials Trilogy.
Kudos to your genius, Richard Adams, for making a "book about rabbits" one of the all time greats
"Watership Down" was Richard Adams' debut novel and was first published in 1972. He originally told it to his children to help pass the time on long car journeys. It won the Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal in 1973 and is set in Berkshire, where Adams was born in 1920. It is, of course, about rabbits, and was made into an animated film in 1978 - the soundtrack of which featured "Bright Eyes", by Art Garfunkel.
The book opens at Sandleford Warren in May, with Hazel, a yearling, and his brother, Fiver, feeding at sunset. Although brothers, the pair are very different. Fiver was the runt of the litter and, as a result, is a lot smaller and much more nervous than his brother. He is, however, also something of a seer and - not long after the book opens - foresees the destruction of their home warren. The pair bring the prophecy to the Threarah, their chief rabbit - who, despite Fiver's success rate, refuses to accept it. The brothers decide to leave anyhow, and mean to bring whoever wishes to come along with them. A number of others join them, including two Owsla members : Silver, a nephew of the Threarah, and Bigwig. Although they have little idea of where they're going, Fiver knows what they should be looking for and have an excellent leader in Hazel.
This book has so much going for it, it's hard to write a review that will do it justice. Bigwig was a great character - an all-action rabbit (yes, really !!) whose name comes from the strange tuft of hair between his ears. However, he's not the only star. Other notable characters include General Woundwort, the leader of another warren and the baddest rabbit in England. (A vicious character, he'd leave your average bunny-boiler with badly burnt fingers and causes our heroes a great deal of trouble). Kehaar, a somewhat foul-mouthed (or is that foul-beaked ?) seagull, provides a certain amount of humour. He also helps the rabbits establish themselves after they arrive at their new home. The story is very engaging and is very well told. Adams explains the way rabbit society is structured, for example, including the role of a Chief Rabbit and his Owsla. As the story progresses, he includes a few words of the rabbits' own language and a few of their myths : these are very much centred on the great rabbit hero, El-ahrairah. An excellent book, and highly recommended.
'Watership Down' is the exciting and emotional tale where a group of rabbits are forced to leave their Sandleford homes when Fiver, who often sees visions of the future, tells them that their warren is in danger from humans. The group is then lead by Hazel and Bigwig as they make their way through the fields of Hampshire as they come face to face with danger from other animals such as rats, foxes, cats, dogs and owls as well as humans and cars. As the story goes on Hazel and the group of rabbits try to rescue some rabbits from a farm; help a bird, who in turn then helps them; join another warren of rabbits and also try to steal does from a much bigger and powerful warren known as Efrafa, leading to a shocking and brilliant finalle. Along the way tales are told of El-ahrairah (prince of a thousand enemies), which gives more insight into the beliefs of the rabbits in their own world.
As someone who usually mainly reads crime fiction and horror (and have also never seen the movie adaption), I never thought that I'd enjoy a book about a bunch of rabbits but after a strong recommendation from my girlfriend, I gave this a try and once I started it I couldn't put it down. Immediately I fell in love with Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Pipkin, Dandelion, Speedwell, Blackberry, Silver, Buckthorn, Holly, Bluebell and Strawberry. Each and everyone of them has their individual characteristics and I found that I actually cared quite a lot what happened to them, and got quite emotional at certain points in the story.
Although this dubbed a children's novel, I found it to be quite complex at times and also quite gruesome and horrifying in parts, which I could imagine may be quite disturbing for younger readers. Overall though this is a brilliant read that took me no time at all to get through it's 480 pages and is one that I'll definitely read again. Without a doubt this is a classic that everyone should give a go, even if you think that a book about rabbits wouldn't be your kind of thing.
on 25 June 2009
I want to make it clear that I do not use words like "brilliant" lightly or give 5 stars out like confetti when I write these reviews. However, having read this book, both are justified. It is simply a wonderful, wonderful book. How can a book about rabbits talking to each other be so good? Well, how about vivid characters, high adventure, some breathtaking moments, a fantastic plot, and incredible adventures, all set in the countryside of England which is beautifully described, seen through the eyes of the rabbits.
It is a fairly long book at 470 pages approx, but never once does it get boring or tedious. In fact, the story builds to an amazing climax. I never would have believed I would enjoy a story about rabbits so much (I normally read science fiction!). On closing this book at the end, you get that feeling which only comes when you know you have read a masterpiece.
Also, please don't make the mistake of thinking this is a children's book. This book is for all ages. Even if you are 95 it would still be a great read. I could not put it down. Thank you Mr Adams for this truly great book.
on 4 April 2008
Notwithstanding a slightly weak, watered down animated film version, this novel has for a long time held a rightful place in the hall of fame of fantasy literature. Reportedly honed from Adams' impromptu storytelling on long car journeys with his children, the unforgettable story of Hazel and his friends and their escape from the culling hands of men to the "promised land" of Watership Down never falters, and is engaging from the very first page. Along the way, our heroes meet a vast array of fellow creatures, some friendly, some dangerous, and high drama is always around the corner.
But it is the rich fabric with which this story is woven together that makes it so memorable and gripping. Adams has created an entire society and culture surrounding his characters, chronicling their habits, folklore, even language in staggering detail. The back-stories and tales told by the rabbits to each other are enough to divert from the main plot entirely at times, and are mini-masterpieces in themselves. Obviously this is the work of an extraordinarily imaginative talent, leaving the reader, when the book is closed for the last time, aching for just one more chapter, one more page, before we have to say goodbye to the colourful characters whose long and eventful journey we've shared.
If a book about rabbits seems like a bad idea, it's interesting to note that Adams' manuscript was rejected by almost every major publisher before finally making it to the bookstands. Don't make the same mistake. This is a definate must-read.
on 23 October 2000
What a great story, in my childhood i saw the film and that has been a living memory. Now i have only just got the book and its just as good maybe even better , but i would be hard to rate both the film and the book because its the same story line. But all in all hands up to the author for making this get story , a memory that will stay with me untill i pass away.
I recommend this book to every gender , any age and i promise that you will have the same view.
A Cut from the book that i like.
"El-ahrairah, Your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed."
on 21 August 2006
I only wish I had read this at school, then it would not have waited until I was 25 to read it. I was under the impression that, having seen the cartoon, I already knew the plot, and as a result I neglected to read it for so long.
Now, its my 3rd favourite book of all time (behind 'Lord Of The Rings' and 'And Then There Were None'). It is a classic in every sense of the word, the language is accessible and easy to read, the settings charming, the characters utterly endearing, the hostile faction utterly ruthless. The whole plot is compelling from start to finish, and so absorbing you could finish it in one sitting, which is such a rarity nowadays.
As usual with Adams, there is an undertone of the cruelty of man, especially concerning the 'white blindness', (myxamatosis(did I spell that right?)), but this adds to the atmosphere and does not detract at all. So high a standard does he set, that his succeeding books do not come close to this superb novel. If you haven't read it, do so.
I don't realy know why Amazon are using the cover of 'Tales From Watership Down', which is a completely different book. This could cause some confusion, so sort it out!!
on 3 May 2002
A fantastic story lovingly brought to life. Andrew Sachs is a wonderful reader, and gives each character life.The music in this is lovely, and adds to the drama. It is a pity that its been abridged, but this has to be one of the best audiobooks ever! Buy it!