Watership Down by Richard Adams
This is a classic children's novel but I didn't read it till it made my Book Club's 2015 reading list. Actually the only reason it was on that list is because I put it there. I've wanted to read it for a long time, but you know what it's like - there's always something else, or a dozen something elses, that need reading first.
I usually begin reading our book club book one week before our meeting. That gives me time to finish it but not enough time to forget what I wanted to say about it. (Growing older is, as Betty Davis said, not for wimps.) This time I left it too late and didn't start it till Sunday. Our meeting is on Wednesday evening. I had just enough time to finish it if I read 125 pages every day. Monday turned out to be a write off of a day so Tuesday and Wednesday I had to read it skimming over some of the descriptions (which were beautiful) and mindlessly barreling through the rest. I was able to take part in the discussion at book club but I felt like I'd cheated myself out of a really good read.
It was comical to hear comments on the title when we had our meeting. Some thought it would have something to do with a ship or submarine and had no idea it was a children's story about rabbits. Watership Down is a location in England. It's where the rabbits in the book make their home after they leave the warren that is about to be destroyed by construction equipment.
The book tells their story as they struggle to find a new home. They meet and escape from various predators. They are taken captive and have to use their wits to make their way to freedom again. Some are lost, some injured, but they keep going, learning to trust their own, and each other's , strengths and talents. Themes of friendship, loyalty and perseverance come through clearly and make for a story that children would find both exciting and satisfying. I found the short epilogue at the end to be one of the most beautiful parts of the book. A little bit sad, but in the very best way.
I think this beautiful story could be read by 9 or 10 year olds on their own, and could be read to younger children in segments. It's well written and the rabbit characters are lovable, but imperfect. I wish I had given it the time and attention it deserves. As quoted on the cover in the picture above: "Everyone who can read English should read it."