I have started this book without finishing it at least three times that I know of for sure. On the last attempt, some sixteen years ago, I got all the way to the climactic showdown before I threw in the towel. For some reason I couldn't hack it. I'm not sure what that reason was. I thought I knew, but during this latest (successful) attempt to read it cover to cover I realized something:
All my memories of this book were warped.
All of them.
Things I remembered accurately include Fiver's and Hazel's names and what happened to their old warren. That's pretty much it. I vaguely (and inaccurately) remembered what happened at Strawberry's warren, and after that I started to wonder if my memories of Watership Down were mixed up with another book. Come to think of it, the last time I tried to read it my doctor was changing my meds around, so maybe I was just high the whole time. That would actually explain a lot.
Since my experience with Watership Down this time around was like reading a whole new book, I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. What started as sort of a chore I didn't want to put off any longer swiftly turned into a good time with an entertaining story. Richard Adams outdid himself building a world from a leporid perspective, complete with philosophy, language, and Brer Rabbit-esque legends. Did you know that according to rabbit lore the world is made of the divine poop of the sun god? That would actually explain a lot, too.
Anyway, I'm glad I got to the ending at long last because it's a good one. The book as a whole gets three stars, but the last page of the epilogue gets five.
I am going to attribute my success in finishing the book this time around to the late Brian Jacques. In the years between my last reading attempt and this one, I read a heap of Redwall novels which, if nothing else, helped inure me to scenes of cute, furry animals tearing each other to pieces over matters of honor, mating, and real estate. Thank you, Mr. Jacques, wherever you are.