Well into the fifth iteration of doing the Author of the Month feature, I now present to you Gentle Readers yet another beloved British author with a horde of devoted readers / fans across the world, his books selling millions over the years since it was published and, yes, I will be having another fellow from the other side of the river who goes along with the similar surname of Adams to grace my humble blog (and lest you have the wrong notion I’ll not be doing another round of Douglas Adams reading, though I must admit reading him for the first time is a moment I will truly call love at first sight).
Alright, after that much blabbering above I give you…
Indeed, today — May 9, 2011 — marks the birthday of the 91 year old long-time resident of Hampshire, England and as a simple gesture of celebrating this much-loved author’s work I will be reading one of his well-known, cherished books, the first one he ever published in his long-time career of writing: Watership Down.
I actually don’t know what to expect with this book, but knowing that this one won the Carnegie Medal Award and is considered a modern classic in the children’s literature genre, coupled with the temptation to know personally why it is in high regard in the hearts of almost everyone who read it, is hard to resist. And to tell you frankly, who can’t refuse cute, fluffy rabbits as a book’s protagonist? Not me, that’s for certain. If it’s any of interest to you, Gentle Reader, here’s a brief description of the novel’s plot:
Fleeing the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their ancestral home, a band of rabbits encounters harrowing trials posed by predators and hostile warrens — driven only by their vision to create a perfect society in a mysterious promised land known to them as Watership Down. First published in 1972 to world-wide rave reviews and now a modern classic, this is a powerful tale about the destructive impact of our society on nature — written in the same vein as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
I’m currently reading the 2005 Scribner edition which includes a new introduction by the author, and it’s amusing to learn that the seed for the story of Watership Down has its origins as a made up story Richard Adams told to his daughters, Juliet and Rosamond, on a long journey in the early 1970s which still continued in between bedtime and whenever Richard picks them up from school on the way home. When the story came to end it was his daughter Juliet who suggested that: “You ought to write it down, Daddy. It’s too good to waste.” So begins Richard’s arduous task of setting the story in paper for almost two years, and the reason behind the lovely dedication in the book’s first page.
Reading on how he was rejected by several (seven to be exact!) publishers — with one even remarking “Older children wouldn’t like it because it is about rabbits, which they consider babyish; and younger children wouldn’t like because it is written in an adult style.” — and his unwavering belief to his novel until he found a publisher in the person of Rex Collings, is nothing short of inspirational.
What makes the reading of this book and doing this monthly blog feature sweeter this time around is that I got to share it with two members from Goodreads-The Filipino Group (and more depending if there’ll be others who would want to join us) reading it through together under the Reading Buddies setup where we will be having a point-to-point discussion about the book which we will read for at least two weeks (we will be starting today) for five chapters each day.
I just finished the first five chapters today and I quite like how Adams naturally presents the tranquil warren and using an effective understatement as a foreboding for the upcoming dilemma his characters will have to face. It’s also quite surprising that the period when the novel begins is also in springtime May which makes the reading of it during this month coincidentally perfect. I like the way he organically builds up the world of the rabbits with its own language called “Lapine” and social order. The soft narrator’s reassuring voice, as if ringing with the sprightly British accent in my ears as I read each line through, seems to say to the reader: “Take it easy, never hurry, and savor it.”
Well, I will not go into specifics for fear of spoiling the book for you — in case you haven’t read it yet; and if that is so it’s never too late to join the discussion. For now, I bid you adieu Gentle Reader for Hazel, Fiver and friends are calling me as we journey this month through the downs.
Richard Adams seems to be living a comfortable retirement due to the scant news regarding to his recent activities, but there’s this site called Whitchurch Arts, a creative community where he, apparently, is a member, that I came across with chronicling some of the programs concerning him and his book Watership Down. I’m quite thrilled to know that there’ll be an upcoming illustrated edition for the book in its 40th year Anniversary publication with paintings from long-time Watership Down fan Aldo Galli. Furthermore, I dug up this profile-article of Adams from The Independent.