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My previous book to brainwash convince my young illiterate that reading was fun was Call of The Wild. Call of The Wild is about a dog. Everybody loves dogs and so even someone who’s new to reading should be able to get into the story. Who doesn’t like stories about animals?
Watership Down is about a bunch of rabbits. The first time I heard about the book was when I was reading The Stand. Stu Redman of Texas is not much of a reader but buys Watership Down as a gift, for a niece if memory serves. Stu supposed from the title the book was about some kind of shipwreck but he reads the first page and finds out it’s about a bunch of rabbits. He can’t put it down and reads the whole thing in about two days.
It was years later when I saw a copy laying around my house (still don’t know how it got there but I don’t question the book faeries) and had a similar experience to ol’ Stu’s. I remembered Stephen King’s brief description and there was a rabbit on the cover so I wasn’t quite as surprised; but I was captivated. By the middle of the first page I was totally in the world of these rabbits and the more I read the more immersive that world became. Unlike Buck, these rabbits talk. They in fact have their own language, myths and legends, and the world we see is wholly theirs.
Some people label it allegory but that misses the mark. Certainly there are political themes; each warren runs on a recognizable ‘political’ system. Fiver and his small band’s search for freedom and sovereignty while respecting the individual should appeal to any red blooded American despite the quite English flavor of the book. But these aren’t representations of people. The characters are rabbits and this is an heroic tale about rabbits.
Because the characters are bunnies (though not all of them are cute) the book is often considered children’s lit. It is children’s lit and Adams started by telling the stories to his daughters. But they made him write it down and we owe them because it’s damn good children’s lit. The kind of book that if you read it when you’re nine you can read it over and over again and love it more each time.
That makes it a perfect book to get someone like my poorly read protege to love reading. So perfect that I debated putting this one before Fahrenheit 451. If you haven’t read it, I insist you do so as soon as possible. If it’s been a few years, like it has for me, then I suggest you give it another read. In fact I think I’m gonna put that in my new Kindle right now.