You Should Read This: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Cover for animal fantasy Watership Down by Richard Adams, reviewed for You Should Read This by Cat Rambo.

Watership Down was always notable to me for the section on Silverweed and his brethren. It's a section where the wild rabbits are bewildered by what has happened due to human encourachement, but in some ways, it sets up the horror of General Woundwort that will follow.

Watership Down was the first of a wave of animal books that included Duncton Wood, The Book of the Dun Cow, and Tailchaser’s Song. It’s inspired an animated movie that is not terrible (bear in mind that I dislike most movies) and which has weathered the years well.

What: A group of rabbits whose warren is destroyed by the bulldozers of a housing development try to find a new place to live, despite various pitfalls and traps along the way.

Who: Anyone who loves animals will love this book, and any writer interested in writing epic journeys as well as non human protagonists will find an analysis of the rabbits’ trek an instructive one.

When: Read this for immersion or when you want to share a saga with your children.

Why: Read it to see how well Adams has worked out rabbit soceity, including a vocabulary full of rabbity concepts like tharn and fabulous phoneticisms like hrududu. Read it to see the rabbit mythology and listen to the folktales told among the rabbits, very much in the same tradition as Kij Johnson’s The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North park after the change.

Where/how: Read it on a summer afternoon, preferably one when you can see a young rabbit or two frisking on the lawn, flicking their long ears back as they eye you whenever you flip a page.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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