When I saw the selection for March I muttered something under my breath like "Oh hraka", only I used the English equivalent. I wasn't keen on reading a book about bunnies; a book that apparently contained some made-up language; and even worse some kind of deep hidden message about humanity. I was even less thrilled when I went to the library and saw how big the book was. If this had been required reading at my High School, I would have readily taken the "F".
Still, I had resolved myself to reading whatever book was recommended, so I steeled myself to just get through it; kind of like when I was in Guatemala and forced myself to eat some pretty nasty things placed in front of me by the poverty stricken natives who were obviously giving me the best that they had. I was pleasantly surprised however that this literary meal tasted pretty good.
It reminds me of another gustatory experience I had while attending a week long class in San Francisco. One evening a group of us went into Chinatown to eat at a Chinese restaurant that somebody in our group had heard was really good. The place was a run-down looking hole in the wall, sandwiched between a seedy hotel and a strip-club. We asked the old chinese man that seated us at our table if we could have some menu's (I didn't see any when we came in), and he responded "No menu. Not to worry, I take care of you", and walked away. I had a bad feeling about this. Apparently he was going to surprise us with a selection of dishes that we didn't order.
The first dish to come out looked disgusting. It was squid that looked like it had been steamed or sauteed with a variety of weeds pulled from cracks in the sidewalk. This is exactly what I was afraid of, but I was also scared that it might go downhill from there and I was very hungry, so I decided to try it anyway. I was amazed to discover that it was actually very delicious. I would have been happy to just have that entree alone, but the old man kept bringing dish after dish, and each one was more delicious than the last. It ended up being one of the best meals I have ever had in my entire life.
Watership Down ended up being a delicious reading feast for me as well. I devoured it in under a week, and like my Chinese meal it just got better and better. When I was finished I felt completely satisfied. It was one of the best books I have ever read.
I felt very much like I did after reading another set of books that I dearly love -- "The Lord Of The Rings", and I quickly realized why. Both stories gave me a glimpse into a society and culture, that drew me in, and made me wish I was a part of it. In TLOTR series it was the hobbit culture. And what was special about these hobbits is that even though they were different, small, vulnerable, and by nature shy, and preferred to remain close to the safety of their own hobbitown; they were fiercely loyal to their friends and, when necessary, capable of great courage. By the end of their saga I had grown to love these little fictional characters.
I also learned to love the rabbits of Watership Down. They were also small, and vulnerable; but they had a mission, and a determination to carry it out no matter what the odds. I felt like I watched them grow and develop over the course of the story; Hazel in particular, who started out a fairly ordinary rabbit, but by the end grew into a great leader; supported of course by a great cast of characters, all showing incredible bravery under some very difficult circumstances.
A great story also needs a great villain, and General Woundwort was a classic. The last quarter of the book had all the drama and suspense of a daring rescue from a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, and I had a hard time putting it down. Their final defense of their home and Bigwig's last-stand showdown with Woundwort was epic. Stephanie Meyer should read this book and learn a little something about writing a final showdown between good and evil.
Thank you Queso for your recommendation... sorry for ever doubting you. I only wish I had as a good a book to recommend for next month's selection.