January 2017: Book Club Review

Theme - Classics: ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams

So, why is this book a classics? ‘Cause it’s old …’ was one view given at the start of our discussion. Published in 1972, this novel crafts a classic plot for a book, but from an animal point of view. It was this structure, together with the mimicry of characters from history that made us reason why the novel is currently withstanding the test of time.

Often considered a children’s novel – in fact my own (413 page) copy from the library was found sandwiched between a couple of ‘easy readers’ – many adult themes are tempered through use of anthropomorphised rabbits rather than human characters. Though as those of us who had already seen the movie already knew, others who were coming to the story for the first time were not sure how child friendly the story really is.

Split into four distinct parts, we agreed that that novel was generally enhanced by each part. Some argued that the use of folklore served to give the rabbits a history, similar to human history with lots of sagas. This seemed especially imporatant as the rabbits own story has the capacity to become part of their own folklore. However, some felt that we could have had less of the rabbit ‘folk tales’, arguing that it diverted from the main part of the novel. Similarly, some felt that the human point of view felt invasive in the rabbit’s story and as a result was unnecessary.

Thinking about how it compared to our wider reading. One person said it felt similar to the ‘Jungle Book’ as the both authors limit their animals to their natural attributes and behaviour. Another person suggested a similarity to ‘Dunkton Wood’ due the shared theme – we’re all different but we all have a place in society.

This novel dragged on for some, but was absorbing for others. However, in the end a final group vote gave the book a resounding score of 4/5.

Recommended further reading:

If you enjoyed our ‘Classic’ choice you could also try ‘Duncton Wood’ by William Horwood or ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame.

If you like the idea of reading a classic, but our particular interpretation of the theme didn’t interest you, you could consider:

  • ancient classics – if your ancient Greek is a little rusty, you can try translations of Homer’s ‘Illiad’ or ‘Odyssey’

  • nineteenth century classics – the most well-known authors include Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters

  • modern classics – this could include stream of consciousness classics by Virginia Woolf or Jean Rhys; beat novels by Jack Kerouac; or satirical novels by George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller.

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