Watership Down by Richard Adams

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My grandfather is an avid reader. He reads a huge number of crime novels and those spy adventure type books that always open with someone getting shot somewhere in Europe, and have the name of the author in huge capitals on the front, bigger than the title of the book (these are the authors that earn a lot of money, I think). My pop is the first reader of all the manuscripts I write, including the ones which are terrible and no-one else ever gets to read. (I am really lucky to have such awesome grandparents.) (My nan reads all my manuscripts as well, even though she is not quite as keen a reader. I give her lots of books, too, though, because those are pretty much the only gifts I give, and she is very good about reading them because she knows books are very important to me - she really enjoyed The Lovely Bones and she's reading The Rosie Project at the moment.)

Our reading tastes are quite dissimilar, so when he recently he told me I absolutely had to read Watership Down, I was pretty sceptical. (The last book before that he had me read was a submarine thriller thing adapted from a film. I can't remember the name of it. Oh no, wait, The Abyss. I haven't seen the movie. For an adaptation, it was pretty good.)

I'd heard of Watership Down, and knew it was a classic, but not anything else about it. As is my way, I filled in all the details with whatever made logical sense to me. For some reason, I thought it was a War and Peace-type thing, but in the navy. I don't know how I came up with this ridiculous idea, but I thought it for years. And then my pop told me it was about rabbits. "But you forget that they're rabbits!" he said. "And it's nothing like Animal Farm."

So I put in on hold at the library and two days later in came in, because the librarians of the Gold Coast City Council libraries are pretty much gods and I think they can teleport books between the libraries? They also have this great system where you get a text message when your book is ready for pick up, and that's nice!

So I went and picked up the book, and then I read it in two days, mostly on the train. I kept wanting to tell other people in the carriage about it, but suppressed the urge because that would have been rather annoying and I'd probably have seemed deranged. What I wanted to talk about though, was the sheer awesomeness of this weird, lengthy 40-year-old book about rabbits, of all things, that's sort of a kids book but mostly not. About the utter absurdity of a psychic rabbit, but how it seems totally normal in the novel. About the hierachies of the warrens and this strange dichotomy between their sophisticated organisational systems and total naivete in other matters. About the odd farm rabbits and the various plots to bring back some does (female rabbit representation in the novel is very poor, because they forget to take any does with them when they leave the warren. As you do) and their bizarre little words and rabbit gods and on and on.

It is bizarre and it is lovely and it is great. It's just about these rabbits who leave their warren because one of them has a vision of disaster and bloodshed, and go and form their own warren. That's it! Off through the countryside! It sounds funny, but I found it really very compelling and I think you should read it, if you haven't already. It's not the height of literary sophistication, though I don't imagine you expect that of me. (I'm not known for being cool or literary.) Sometimes heartwarming is nice.
Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground