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BOOK REVIEW - RICHARD ADAMS - WATERSHIP DOWN. 1972 Rex Collings.  

 

This is a refreshingly shocking book for children to read, as the rabbits of the Down are a far cry from the cutesy-wootsy fluffy bunnikens of a Beatrix Potter tale.  Here, the cruel, harsh and often short brutal life of a wild rabbit is captured perfectly.  The book is violent and uncompromising, but nevertheless beautiful and haunting. The story begins when a rabbit burrow on the Downs is destroyed by human interference. Bulldozers and earth-moving machines crush the rabbit homes, killing and maiming many. The survivors begin an epic trek to find a new home. The rabbits are given to speaking with human voices, and they even have a complex religious belief system. Their faith states that they are the creation of Prince Rainbow, They believe that the gods are cruel in giving them few defenses against their countless predators, but they are thankful for their ability to hop fast and dig themselves into the ground quickly. The journey in search of a fresh burrow is harsh. Fiver and Hazel lead them. They gain some assistance from a foul-mouthed migrant German accented seagull called Keehar. On the way they face the danger of cars, dogs, being captured as pets, farmers with shotguns, fire, and ultimately, their own kind. It is the ferocious battle against the tyrannical General Wormwort, a rabbit who brutally trains his rabbits to fight to the death that ultimately decides the fate of the rabbits. They need a place in Wormwort’s community, but he and his guards have to be killed to make it possible.  The rabbits from the Down win the day, but Hazel is wounded. He eventually dies, and Fiver, now the leader of the community, envisages him dancing with Prince Rainbow in the sky. A film version was made in the 1989’s, and is best remembered for Art Arundel’s song Bright Eyes, which is about the death of Hazel. 

 

A realistic story that is more for grown ups and older children, as younger readers could find it’s uncompromising unhappy elements something of a culture shock. http://www3.isrl.uiuc.edu/~unsworth/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Watership+Down

 

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