Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams


Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

Watership Down is so much more than just the story of rabbits searching for a new home. It is a powerful story about friendship and loyalty; it is a darn good animal fantasy and a memorable adventure. It is definitely a classic by all definitions and is a novel that defies age and genre boundaries.

The tone of the story is in the vein of much older fantasy novels and is reminiscent of Tolkien. It has the same methodical pacing and crazily detailed descriptions. There are pages which are just descriptions of places which can get a little boring and overwhelming at times, but overall creates a wonderful atmosphere while reading. This is coupled with the fact that the narration is third person omniscient making you feel as if you are being told a magnificent story rather that reading one. This would be a wonderful book to listen to as an audio book or to read aloud.

The rabbits have a whole culture of their own in Watership Down with everything from a god to a mythology to a language. The narrator provides you with the character’s rabbit names as well as their translated English names. Sentences in rabbit are slipped in to the dialogue as well and the soft, flowing words are a perfect fit for the peaceful (well mostly) animals.

By having the characters be rabbits, it simplifies much of the story and the focus can instead be placed on the more important aspects of life. Hazel is a truly great character; flawed but easy to relate to. He becomes leader not by choice, but because he takes the initiative to leave in search of a better life. He struggles with controlling the group and preventing his power from getting to his head, but ultimately learns that to be a good leader you need to be someone others can rely on no matter the situation. And that being a leader is not a one man show. Fiver and Pipkin are my favourite characters simply because I want to give them both hugs for being so adorable.

I loved Dandelion’s stories – rabbit fables are wonderful! Prince Rainbow is daring trickster and I really enjoyed hearing about his escapades.

A good chunk of the story deals with creating opportunities and finding a place in the world that fits for you. The rabbits leave their warren, knowing that they will never be able to live the life they want and deserve, to find a place where they can live a better life. Along the way they visit other warrens and learn that the grass isn’t greener elsewhere. Hazel and the others want a quite life free of dictatorships and rituals and rules. They sacrifice much to reach their utopia find their happiness.

Recommended to everyone.


4 thoughts on “Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

  1. Great review! 🙂
    “it is a darn good animal fantasy” I laughed at this sentence haha, so true 🙂
    One of my favorite books ever but it was so sad somehow. Have you read other books by this author?

      1. There’s other book about same rabbits as in Watership Down and then also I liked Shandrik and The Girl in the Swing (but they are one of the few ones that have been translated into Finnish 😀

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