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Book DetailsISBN: 9781444763638
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Book Review: The Constant Rabbit: The Sunday Times bestseller by Jasper Fforde - Reviewed by CloggieA (17 Aug 2020)
5 stars The Constant Rabbit is a novel by Welsh author, Jasper Fforde. The 2020 United Kingdom that Fforde describes to the reader is very much an alternate one where, fifty-five years earlier, a Spontaneous Anthropomorphic Event transformed a selection of animals into human-sized, talking, walking, thinking creatures.
In the British Isles, the most numerous are now rabbits, who prove to be peaceable and hard-working. It takes a good deal of world-building to make a tale like this work, but anyone who has read his books knows that this is something at which Fforde is highly skilled.
Even though Peter Knox works at the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce detecting rabbits attempting identity fraud, he’s not anti-rabbit like some of his colleagues, who are just a shade off hominid supremacists. But his favourable treatment of a doe rabbit borrower at the village library has been noted by the right-wing village elders. He recognises Constance Rabbit from their casual friendship at college decades-earlier, before rabbits were banned.
The ruling UK Anti-Rabbit Party is pressing for their “humane” solution, Rehoming the rabbits from their established colonies to a MegaWarren in Wales, and their campaign to subvert the Rabbit Underground sees a very reluctant Peter plucked from his office job into active Ops, tracking down a suspected rabbit operative. His last experience on Ops had ended very badly.
To unsettle him even further, the vacant house next door is suddenly occupied by Major Clifford and Mrs Constance Rabbit and their two children. While Peter tries to deal with his re-emerging attraction to his new neighbour, his scary boss wants him to infiltrate, suspecting connections to the Rabbit Underground, while the village council wants the rabbits out of Much Hemlock.
What follows for Peter is a wild ride that includes being challenged to a duel, a graffitied garage door, getting drunk on dandelion brandy, being charged with murder, physical mutilation, prison time, wearing a wire, and slicing a lot of cucumbers. Of prison, he says: “In a turnabout that no-one expected after the crash of 2008, the second-largest group in prison after rabbits was now sociopathic investment bankers, corrupt representatives of ratings companies and dodgy corporate accountants.”
Readers from Goulburn NSW might be quite delighted to find that their Big Merino also exists in Fforde’s world, if by a different origin. As always, Fforde manages to include a generous helping of over-the-top English-sounding place names, typically useless government departments with all their annoyingly abbreviated titles, plenty of poli-speak and silly character names.
Fforde gives the reader a heavily satirical social commentary that takes aim at propaganda, conspiracy theories, xenophobia, right-wing politics and detention centres, to name but a few. He even lets a character muse that satire might “provoke a few guffaws but only low to middling outrage – but is couped with more talk and no action. A sort of … empty cleverness.” Smart and inventive, another thought-provoking and entertaining read.
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