WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams


A Novel
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In this British tale (with impressive reviews as a juvenile over there) a pioneer group of wild rabbits reenact the rousing Exodus story/myth as the prophet Fiver senses disaster about to strike the home warren. (A signpost in human language announces a "development" of the field -- the remaining rabbits will be subsequently gassed.) Led by Hazel, more of a William Bradford than a Moses, the group eventually reaches the promised land, Watership Down. But only after racking hardships, narrow escapes and a bizarre sojourn at a sinister warren of welcoming fat rabbits who withhold their dreadful secret of inevitable execution. The major battles, however, are fought against the dictator rabbit General Woundwort and his secret police. Right and democracy finally triumph through supreme strategy and mighty sacrifice -- by the few to whom the many will owe so much. Adams' rabbits are fairly simple beings -- no lolling over picnic baskets or complex political maneuvers -- but there are appealing and even moving touches: inventive rabbit/folk stories of that arch-imp, the demi-god El-ahrairah (herein the mystic moments), poetry with echoes from Grahame, a gull with a French-Canadian accent, a mouse chittering in organ-grinder Italian, and anagram titles from rabbit law and tradition. Adams does manage to nudge the reader down the rabbit hole to accept his serious purpose -- but one finds the company nobly dull and the New Jerusalem not half so attractive as the flying fur of deadly combat. Very special, but who knows -- it might just hippity hop off to Jonathan Livingston's marsh-land. Carnegie Medal and Guardian Award winner.
Pub Date: March 18th, 1974
ISBN: 0743277708
Page count: 498pp
Publisher: Macmillan
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1974


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