Richard Adams: Watership, Shardik, Girl in a Swing, and more


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
I've just finished a rereading of The Girl in a Swing and thought Chrons people might like a place in the Literary Fiction area to discuss this author. My sense is that, like me, quite a few people have read his first few novels, but I don't seem to run across comments on books written in the past 25 years or so.
The first three books are outstanding. Classics.
The Girl In A Swing I did like, but it felt so different to the first three that it was a bit of a shock.
Maia I couldn't finish. I think he had a touch of Old Man's Syndrome - that Jack Vance also succumbed to.
But those first three books will always be wonderful.
I read The Girl in a Swing quite a few years ago (about '97 I think) and I have to say, it was one of the most haunting books I have ever read. I just couldn't get it out of my head for many days after.
The last one I read was Maia (1984): half an interesting look at a society on the verge of shifting from an aristo/republican state to a burgeoning empire; half explicit S&M pornography. I gave up after that. Saw a copy of "The Girl On the Swing" that had a naked girl on a swing on the cover; figured Adams was at it again so didn't bother.
I stumbled across an audio version of Watership Down on Radio 4 recently, adapted by Brian Sibley. I thought it was very well done - the rabbits being simple without being stupid. And they made Kehaar female (because why not? The does only get a look in later on in the book).
I'd read Watership Down and the Plague Dogs a long time ago.
Never heard of Shardik until I was reading Stephen King's the Dark Tower series - it went on my TBR list at that point.
I was unaware until looking on Google that the author had died between the previous post in this thread and my comment today
Watership Down is one of those books that has suffered an inexplicable decline in profile. When I first read it, around 1980 or so, it was regarded as one of the classics of children's and fantasy literature. The copy in my elementary school library was well-worn. There was even an early RPG based off the premise (Bunnies and Burrows).

For some reason, it doesn't seem to have survived in the popular imagination the way books like Narnia and the Hobbit have. I was saddened to see my kids' school library does not have it. Maybe it's considered too heavy for young readers today.
Watership Down is among my top five best reads of all time. It's a superior work in all respects. But I did not like Shardik so much. It seemed clunky and a little boring to me. I also started the Plague Dogs but did not finish. I had started to view Adams as a bit of a one-hit wonder. You may disagree and explain why.
This documentary about Adams and the book seems to me exceptionally good:

(aside from some rock music that sounds like what I hear when I make a phone call and get put on hold). Adams's enthusiasm for Walter de la Mare is intriguing (I've designated this a "de la Mare year," because I've been meaning to delve into this author and am doing so at last). He reads or recites "John Mouldy," which is the first poem in William Wootten's Reading Walter de la Mare. And Adams reveals the importance of de la Mare's Three Mulla-Mulgars (Three Royal Monkeys), a book which might have influenced The Hobbit as well.

I bought my copy of Watership Down 40 years ago when I was 18 after watching the animated movie on TV. It is my prized book in my literature library, and sad to say, I have not read it yet and I don't know why ... It's right there and I see it every day, and I don't know why.

Flashback 7 years ago, and while I was tending to our backyard, there was this young female cottontail that visited every few days like clockwork. So, I started gaining its trust by making vocal calls when I was out there every day. Soon it would ignore me and I could get even closer to it. I named her Daisy Eye (Bunbun) because of the Daisy flower pattern around her eyes.

The next spring, I made the same calls (Bunbun) every day, but at first she would run from me. Then one morning, Daisy Eye was my best and constant yard friend. And I mean only a foot or two away from me all the time. All the time! Well, nature takes it course and so it goes.

Blaw, blaw, blaw and that's nice THX. Read the book, get it out then talk to us! (Theater folk, I tell you ...)

I really need to read this book. It may not have the same meaning as it does to any of you, but that's fine.
When I was in my last year at primary school, aged11, our teacher read a chapter a day of Shardik to us. Sadly I cannot remember much about the book.

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