I’ve spent this snowy Saturday at home, rather under the weather. I spent an unfortunate amount of time out in the damp yesterday and after picking up my new Kobo, arrived home to discover that I was coming down with a cold. So this morning I stayed in bed and read the entirety of Watership Down by Richard Adams. I had a peculiar idea that I had read this book before, but having completed it now I definitely had not. Perhaps I was confusing it with The Wind in the Willows.
It was a great reading experience and the story stuck me as particularly thoughtful. This was perhaps furthered by reading after the fact that Adams came up with the story to entertain his daughters in the car, and didn’t create it with any particular message or lesson to be learned from it. It’s an easy story to try and mine instruction from, but I love that this is not due to a particular amount of labour on the part of the author. That would give it so much more artificial a feel.
I enjoyed how it mimicked the epic journey of Classical fiction. The quotations that preceded each chapter (which I must assume are universal, and not just part of my edition, but if I am wrong please let me know) were so precise in capturing the essence of what was to come, I found myself thinking on them often. The reference to the lotus-eaters in the chapter about the warren of the snares was fantastic. What great storytelling.
I will admit that I went into it thinking that this was a children’s book. I’m not sure if it’s actually marketed that way or not. I think I would have found the story dull and a little over my head were I to have read it when I was younger, despite the talking animals and adventure. That is not to say that children shouldn’t try and read it. There’s nothing quite so educational as a book that is above one’s level. I don’t particularly have any problem with the sorts of violence portrayed, as it is all part of the animal kingdom and therefore rather objective, though I do wonder at letting a story with such clear gender roles serve as a formative reading experience. As an adult I can take it with a grain of salt, but I wouldn’t want to let a child think of this kind of language as normative (I’m referring to the explicit description by the male rabbits of the female rabbits as ‘breeding machines’). I don’t think this detracts from the story if you read it critically.
Anyways, that’s another novel closer to my yearly reading goal. I didn’t realize how long it was when I started but it helped me get through what would have otherwise been a dull morning of convalescence. I’m hoping to get through another couple of Diana Wynne Jones books soon, and I have a list of other books from childhood that I want to go through again. Being sick is a wonderful excuse to do nothing but read!