Watership Down by Richard Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In loving memory of Richard Adams (1920 – 2016)
My relationship with Watership Down began about a year ago, (2013), on a sunny May afternoon. It was warm outside and I was basking in the sunlight on the terrace, allowing the swinging bench I sat on to move at its leisurely pace. My father sat at my side, discussing home renovations with my mother, when suddenly I sat up and searched this book on iBooks. My favorite singer had covered the song “Bright Eyes” and a favorite band of mine (to which the singer belonged, believe it or not) had written a song entitled “Heroism: Hazel and Dandelion,” which I’d heard was an allusion to Watership Down. So, I decided to search the book. When I found out it was about rabbits, I remember feeling absolutely no qualms about reading it, and I think that was because I’d seen small snippets from the film adaptation online, which I was able to handle, given my age. I remember wanting to watch the entire movie, but I found out that it was a novel, and I never watch a movie without cracking open the book first. The only thing I really remember about that first day of reading is diving into the sample from iBooks, and finishing the 100-page preview within the hour. (The iBooks version was 1,000-plus pages.) I remember walking back out to the terrace, where my parents were still conversing in the mid daylight. I sat down beside my father and patiently waited for the conversation to stop, distracting myself with my iPad. A minute later, he turned to me and said, “Okay, I know you’re dying to tell me about the book.”
I remember trying to conceal my excitement; I remember feeling bad about him spending his money on something for me. I knew the price was only $10, but I still felt bad about it. My father didn’t care, which wasn’t a surprise, since we both shared a profound love of reading. Exactly a week later, I had finished the book and at the same time had fallen in love with it. I remember trying to pick a favorite character, and coming up with a ton! (Hazel, Thlayli, Fiver, Pipkin, Dandelion.)
I remember how, every time I picked up the book during that first read, a wave of nostalgia would wash over me as I was driven by an intensely burning hunger to see what would happen next. I remember falling in love with Thlayli after he promised to save Blackavar from certain death in Efrafa. I remember reading the chapter “General Woundwort” during my lunch period at school, and feeling intensely sad when I had to stop because the bell signaling the end of the period rang! I remember one of the teachers asking me about the book I was reading and telling her, and her telling me in response that she had read it, too, and loved it.
This book is so worth reading. I still have it on my iPad and I remember that, every time Apple accidentally deleted it, (it does that sometimes) I would think to myself, “Why that one? Delete any other book besides that one!” and wait impatiently until I had internet so I could download it again! This novel is an absolute treasure! It is a must-have for any library. It was so wonderful that I decided to use it for my Summer Reading assignment a month later.
I’m telling you so much about the effect the story had on me, but I should explain why it affected me in this way.
Fiver, the runt of the litter and a seer to boot, has a terrible vision of death and destruction approaching his home Sandleford warren. He convinces his brother Hazel that evacuation is mandatory, so, as the Chief Rabbit dismisses it all as nonsense, Hazel and Fiver gather a small group of rabbits to leave, including two members of the warren’s militia, Thlayli and Silver. Their journey takes them to places and puts them in situations unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But will they find a new home?
I won’t spoil any more. All I have left to say is:
it was one of the best novels I’ve ever read. Five MILLION stars.
I just listened to the audiobook (the week before Thanksgiving 2014) for the first time, narrated by the wonderful Ralph Cosham. I fell in love with the audiobook almost as hard as I had with the novel itself. After reading it I did some research on the narrator of the audiobook.
May Ralph Cosham rest in peace….
Update December 2016:
News just surfaced on 12/27 that Richard Adams, the author of this breathtakingly beautiful story, passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve 2016. May his beautiful soul rest in peace….