Confession time: I am, at this very moment, on the verge of tears (I’m very emotional with T.V. and movies. Can’t help it) while watching The Great British Bake-Off…because I am a sappy, sappy person and I am wasting time.
Welcome to me.
That being said, I’ve been so excited to write about my last pre-New Year’s book ever since I finished it. At the end of December, I had the pleasure of reading Watership Down, by Richard Adams, at the recommendation of a very kind member of the Reading Glasses Facebook group.
And I can’t believe I never read this sooner.
This book has everything from my wheelhouse. First off, it’s English, which wins most of the time in my book. I’ve said many times over the years that I was born in the wrong time and place, and I always fantasized that the place was somewhere in the U.K.
As for the time, that has varied over the years, from Victorian times (until I learned about how deadly and nasty the living conditions really were) to Edwardian England (until I noticed just how girly I wasn’t and just how much bloodletting there actually was all the damn time) and quite a few in between. I think if I had to decide now, I’d say that now isn’t such a bad time to be living…but if I had a limitless choice, I’d probably go for living in a T.A.R.D.I.S and sampling any time period I wanted (and escaping whenever I felt like…)
Watership Down takes place in Hampshire, England, and it has a rural, pastoral and idyllic countryside setting. The gentle countryside of the beginning, however, soon gives way to danger and adventure. The story focuses on a group of rabbits who, at the urging of the small and oracular rabbit Fiver, leave their warren in search of a safer place, away from the threat of man. They feel that Watership Down is their Utopia, and they set off.
There are some sad moments and some thrilling moments along the way, but I really would hate to spoil any of them. I just think everyone should read this book, so I don’t want to give anything important away. I will say that Adams was brilliant in his research into the habits and lives of real rabbits (he really did his homework–and it shows) and carrying them many steps further into a sentient, intelligent race with a strong social structure, community, culture, and mythology was absolutely fascinating to read. I loved the mythological stories that were told…how they respected the nature around them and were so perceptive regarding predators and other dangers. I loved how our band of brother rabbits used innovation to explore when it was unheard of for a rabbit; how the bucks learned to dig when it was usually a job for does (tut-tut), and how they used their intelligence to create alliances with other creatures, particularly Kehaar the gull.
And the language. Oh, the invented native language of the rabbits really enriches it. I still do want my next tattoo to include the phrase, “Silflay Hraka” (you’ll have to google that one or better still, read the book, lazybones).
It’s absolutely beautifully written. And, yes, I will also take the stance that it really doesn’t seem like a book for children; although, children in England in the ’70s may well have been very different than American children of the time.
Actually, thinking back to some other books I read when I was young, children everywhere were a little bit different and able to handle much more grown-up things back then, it seems. I remember reading My Side of The Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (which was in the late ’50s and American) and I could never have imagined being able to survive in the forest in the winter, wearing deer skins and making flour out of acorns, so…
And, yes, I wept like a baby at the end. But they were happy tears….and maybe that’s saying a little too much. But when a book affects me for days and weeks after reading it, I just can’t be ashamed of that. I’m so pleased when a book gives me that blessed hangover; that dizzying feeling when you’ve turned over the last page, look up and just sit in stunned silence. When you stare at the wall for a good ten minutes after finishing a book, when you look at life and live day to day with a completely new perspective because of a book, then the author has done a spectacular job.
It may be too much to hope for that someone may someday be affected that way by something I’ve written. But if it’s even a possibility, I will still always write….as long as there are still words left in me.
Sappy, sorry. More humor in the next one, maybe? We’ll see.