By: Jasper Fforde
Narrated by: Andrew Wincott
England, 2022. There are 1.2 million human-size rabbits living in the UK. They wear clothes and can walk, talk, and drive cars, and do pretty much anything most human beings can do. They are the result of an inexplicable Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event 55 years earlier. Nobody knows what the Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event was intended to accomplish. No one knows why the rabbits came to populate Great Britain, but as a result, there are people — human, standard people throughout the UK, and then there are rabbits. Human-like in terms of how they live, what they do with their lives. But they are oppressed. Avoided. Never given the “good” jobs.
It’s systemic Rabbit Oppression. And logically, by all the standards of British law, these rabbits should have the same rights as other sentient creatures, they don’t. What is more, there are human foxes who slaughter rabbits … because they are foxes and some weird law say that rabbits are prey and foxes have the right to kill prey. Those are some scary foxes, too.
Jasper Fforde used to write very funny books about books and nursery rhyme people, but in his last two standalone books, he has gotten more serious. He’s still lighthearted, at least some of the time … but the issues of the day have struck home and this one, in particular, is not an amusing romp. It isn’t a dark book, but it isn’t as twinkly as his earlier books. I think the world has changed so much, he can’t write the way he used to.
Suffice to say this is — in its own very unique way — a brilliant book. I can’t tell you a lot about it without giving away more plot than i want to offer. But there is a lot to think about in this novel. It gets stuck in our head, too and doesn’t go away.
Set in the ancient village of Much Wenlock in the middle of Hereford (which is in the middle of the UK), this is a book to read at least twice. It’s beautifully well-written and as an audiobook, also beautifully narrated. There is love, loyalty, fear, bravery, and romance (both human and rabbit-style). There’s bad government, unfair laws, and the distinct feeling that rabbits might really be immigrants. And there is also something strangely Beatrix Potter going on …
I highly recommend it. If you want — need — something to think about but not so dark that it makes you cry buckets of tears, this is the book. I’m not sure what you would call it. It’s sort of science fiction, but it’s not only that. It’s something else.