Fantasy, published in 1972, available from Amazon.
I first read this book as a teenager and enjoyed it enough to look for more by Richard Adams, but although I have had it on my shelves on and off over the years I’ve not wanted to read it again until recently. I am not generally big on anthropomorphism. But I am so glad I opened it again the other day. It is a delight!
Watership Down is a story about a group of rabbits who leave their warren and travel several miles (a great distance when you’re small and low to the ground) to find a safe place to live. During their travels they have to overcome challenges, such as predators, weather, terrain, humans (of course), and other rabbits. Woven through the book are the old legends the rabbits tell each other, and these reinforce the fantasy element introduced by Fiver, physically the weakest rabbit, who has second sight.
The book has a strong conservation and animal rights message, but one doesn’t feel bludgeoned by it. The message gets across because Adams does such a darn good job of shrinking the reader down to rabbit size and showing you what the world looks like six inches above the ground. Yes, it’s anthropomorphic in that the rabbits interact with each other and meet challenges in decidedly non-rabbity ways. But they’re not little short furry humans, either. Adams never loses touch with the essential rabbitness of his protagonists.
The quality of the writing is good. Adams sometimes gets a tad lyrical when describing the beauties of the English countryside, but he doesn’t overdo it. So although that has the effect of slowing the pace of the book, what one has is a pleasantly leisurely read, with enough pace to keep one engaged without feeling you can’t put it down. That said, this morning I was two-thirds of the way through and actually I didn’t want to put it down. So I took pretty much the whole day off to hang with a bunch of bunnies. There are lots of worse ways to spend time!