37. Watership Down – Richard Adams (100 book challenge)

‘It’s a bit like an adult version of Peter Rabbit. But the rabbits are real.’

‘You’re not really selling it to me…’

There I was, trying to describe to my work colleagues the latest book from my 100 book challenge. And I expect I’ll have just as much difficulty here…

Watership Down cover

This book is amazing. Yes, it’s about rabbits that talk. Yes, they steal radishes from farmers who try to shoot them. Yes, they are scared of foxes and owls and badgers. But… Richard Adams makes it sound just so darn real. Where Beatrix Potter turned her rabbits into people – wearing human clothes that then needed to be washed and mended just like human clothes do – Adams makes his rabbits simply do what rabbits do. They sleep in burrows they dig themselves, they fight off enemies with claws and teeth, they eat, sleep and mate just the way rabbits do.

It’s an action-packed and multi-layered story, with various warrens easily representing different groups in human society. The main rabbit characters are not particularly big and strong, but they are clever, and throughout the story they prove that this cleverness is what keeps a rabbit alive.

When Adams first wrote this book (based on a non-fiction book called ‘The Private Life of a Rabbit’ by Ronald Lockley) it wasn’t published right away. And I can see why: it didn’t clearly sit in any particular genre. It’s a little bit children’s book (but way too long at 470 pages), a little bit adult (but it’s about rabbits who talk!), and did I mention the rabbits also speak their own rabbit language (that’s really quite hard to get your head around at first)? It’s so completely unique I’m surprised that publishers dared to pick it up at all.

Do you have to like rabbits to want to read this book? Absolutely not. But I can guarantee you that, by that final page, you will love rabbits for the rest of your life.


In July 2014 I set myself the challenge to finish 100 must-read books before I die. For my ongoing tally click here.


Filed under 100 book challenge

3 responses to “37. Watership Down – Richard Adams (100 book challenge)

  1. Well, Jessie, you’ve convinced me. Watership Down is being added to my reading list! Thanks a million.

  2. Janet

    I agree with you Diana. Most read it

  3. Pingback: 100 book challenge: my running tally | Jessie Ansons

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