Book Review | Watership Down by Richard Adams

29 November 2019

Watership Down by Richard Adams is a book about rabbits. From the outside it can look deceptively similar to a children's chapter book. But despite the talking animals and adventure, it's so much more than a cute, simple read aloud book before bedtime.

Watership Down follows a small group of wild rabbits who become refugees, leaving their old warren which is set to be destroyed by construction work. They go on an incredible journey to find a new home. The book shows their struggles to survive as they create a new community for themselves. The story is full of rich language, amazing characterization, and darker themes which work to make the world of rabbits reflect our own society at times.

My earliest memory of Watership Down is of my dad reading the first chapters out loud to me when I was between the age of five and six years old. Looking back, I was far too young to fully understand the complexity of this story at the time, but that early exposure made me curious about the rest of the book. I'm grateful for those memories because they led me to pick up the book again when I was a little older.

Watership Down was Richard Adam's first book that he ever wrote or published, and that fact alone astounds me. The writing is so rich. It's full of emotion and atmosphere. It's a warm blanket that envelopes the reader through the whole reading experience.
Since the rabbits don't understand human things, such as cars, trains, and notice boards, there are so many amazing examples in the writing of showing the readers what the Rabbits see or experience, without explicitly explaining what it is to the reader.

Along with the beautiful writing, the pacing of the plot is nearly perfect. All the events are executed extremely well, with foreshadowing peppered in that you don't notice until you've read the book multiple times to catch on to what's happening.
"All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed." -- Richard Adams, Watership Down
It would be a bit of a stretch to call this book a fantasy novel, but the world in which these rabbits live in is so vividly crafted by Adams. This society of rabbits has its own language, social classes, and a mythology that work to make this story that much more real to the reader.

Some of my favorite chapters in this book are those with the rabbit folklore stories that are scattered throughout. The tales of Frith, the god figure, and El-ahrairah, the clever mythical rabbit prince, read like fairytales and are so lovely to read in the midst of suspenseful scenes of conflict.

The plot, while incredible, is propelled by the strong characters in this story. Despite the fact that the characters are all rabbits, Richard Adams brings them all to life. One of my favorite things in a book is when relationships between characters are strong, and the loyal relationships between Fiver, Hazel, Bigwig, and the other rabbits in this book are so touching. Their struggles and friendships are relatable. The reader becomes attached to the characters so gradually that you don't realize how much you care until the climax.

Now that I'm in my twenties, I have read through this beautiful story three times from cover to cover and it has secured a solid place on my All Time Favorites bookshelf. I think about it all the time. Whenever I see it I itch to pick it up again, and when I finish a reread, I am always sad that it's over.  I have found new things in this book every time I've read it. No review can do justice to the feelings I have for this book. It's so special to me, and I don't think I'll ever tire of it. If I had to read one book for the rest of my life, it would be this one.

Rating: ★
"There is nothing that cuts you down to size like coming to some strange and marvelous place where no one even stops to notice that you stare about you." --Richard Adams, Watership Down


  1. Oh my goodness, this book sounds so mystical and unique! I have to check it out ASAP...thanks so much for the lovely review!

  2. My mom recommended the audiobook of this to me recently!! I can't wait to hopefully pick it up soon! This glowing review has me even more excited. XD

    1. That makes me so happy! Your mom must have good taste! ;) I've never listened to this on audio, but hopefully it'll be just as good!