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Richard Adams

el-ahrairah and the gnarly lit crit

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Richard Adams is best known, and justly so, for his juvenile classic Watership Down, a book which I was slow to read and quick to love. Slow to read because I first ran across it in Junior High, and I mean, really--a book about talking rabbits? That was grade school stuff. Quick to love because, really, it's remarkably good. It's a first rate adventure tale in which the characters happen to be rabbits. Their warren is destroyed by a real estate developer, and the few survivors band together and travel across harsh country side to find a new place where they can live in peace, as rabbits are meant to. And the amazing thing is that, unlike some of Adam's imitators, the characters really are rabbits. Sure, they talk; but (with a few exceptions) they live as real rabbits live and are concerned with things real rabbits are concerned with. A few of them are somewhat smarter than real rabbits, but not many. I have to compare this with Adams' imitator, William Horwood, whose moles worship standing stones and build monasteries and libraries.

Tales from Watership Down is altogether a lesser book. While of interest to long-time fans, it adds nothing important to the story.

The only other book by Adams that I've read is Shardik. It took me many tries to get through it, and I only persevered because I was so fond of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and the rest of the rabbits. I used to tell people that Shardik was the only book I'd found that I thought was worth reading only once. (In my view, books are worth reading many times or not at all.) I've since changed my opinion; I'm not sure it was worth reading the first time. But to do it justice, Shardik is not aimed at young readers. I might have a different reaction if I approached it today.

Books by Richard Adams

Watership Down
Tales from Watership Down
Reviews: 1 March 1998

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