Jasper Fforde ‘The Constant Rabbit’ Book Review

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Most readers will grasp the fact that this book is not going to be about Bugs Bunny.  Jasper Fforde’s unique trademark of invective wit and critical observation cover politics, racism, sexism, bureaucracy and libraries.  Actually the library in the village of Much Hemlock has reverted to the old card system but is still afloat despite very tight restrictions.  Some reviewers say this book is a departure from Fforde’s usual style but I disagree.  Jasper Fforde has always been out-there, although his unique writing charm has become more prominent since Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett left the room.

The main protagonists are village newcomer Constance Rabbit and long-time residents Peter Knox and his daughter Pippa.  Despite cultural differences, they meet in the library and become friends.  And the book title?  I thought it had something to do with “The Constant Gardener” by John le Carré but in a Zoom interview via Avid Reader Bookshop, Brisbane, Mr Fforde himself said that it refers to people rabbiting on, e.g. constantly talking – so there you go.

Rabbits rarely lie,” said Pippa.  “They take their greatest pride in preserving most strongly the parts of them that aren’t us”. Thus rabbits walk tall but do lean towards the tonal qualities of Beatrix Potter so it’s a shock when UKARP United Kingdom Anti-Rabbit Party rears its ugly head, ready to enforce rehoming of rabbits to a Mega Warren in Wales.  Things don’t look good for Connie but she’s not going to hop away.  Can sharing her difficulties with her neighbour cause romance to blossom over a lettuce salad?  But wait, average bloke Peter hides a dark secret.

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Jasper Fforde reads a portion of his new book The Constant Rabbit during Zoom interview via Avid Reader Bookshop, West End, Brisbane, Australia in July 2020 https://avidreader.com.au/products/the-constant-rabbit-1

As the byline reads “It’ll take a rabbit to teach a human humanity…” and for any reader with an open mind that’s what this book achieves.  Situations run parallel to today’s world like a surreal split in the time-continuum, engaging satire and brazen behaviour with apprehension and alarm.  It doesn’t take much effort to transpose our current social and political climate over the chapters.  It rapidly becomes clear that the intertextual remarks are meaningful and at times confronting.

Like the home-created experiments that lived and breathed in Thursday Next (in earlier Fforde books Pickwick the Dodo was made from a kit) Connie’s large family had not been the only animals caught up in the 1965 Spontaneous Anthropomorphising Event.  Six weasels, five guinea pigs, three foxes, a Dalmatian, a badger, nine bees and a caterpillar suffered disorders.  What happened to them is succinctly explained. 

Chapter “Searching in vain & Shopping in town” Connie talks about her acting career and lets slip a few movie names. There’s even a dig at the Playboy Bunny era.  I could have done with more illustrations as per previous books but real product brand names and clever wordplay are liberally sprinkled throughout the story; and organisations like TwoLegsGood, Rabxit, and RabCoT exist alongside old-school references, a mixture of “jolly good chap” and 2020 tactile sensibility.

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Part illustration taken from frontispiece drawn by Bill Mudron of Portland, Oregon USA (and my cast-iron rabbit)  https://www.billmudron.com/

What I like about Fforde’s writing style is the wry humour, he tells it like it is – with a twist.  The smarmy Senior Group Leader, Mr Torquil Ffoxe does not escape being lampooned for about forty permutations of the double ff in his name when “All, without exception, were pronounced Fox” so is that a dig at Fforde’s own moniker or reader misinterpretation?

In my opinion, this book is vaguely similar to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” but does not match because in “The Constant Rabbit” Fforde has significantly placed every name, action and event to create an edgy kind of intimacy, an uncomfortably familiar stab of recognition for readers.  With Manor Farm you feel things won’t turn out right; in Much Hemlock you want things to turn out right.  Best of all, Connie Rabbit has joined the illustrious list of strong female characters Jasper Fforde has written over the length of his literary career.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


IMG_20190907_185124Author Profile:

Jasper Fforde has been writing in the Comedy/Fantasy genre since 2001 when his novel “The Eyre Affair” debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list. Since then he has published 14 more books (which include a YA trilogy) with several becoming bestsellers, and counts his sales in millions. “The Constant Rabbit” is his 15th novel.

Jasper Fforde previously worked in the film industry, and now lives and writes in Wales UK. His oeuvre consists of series and standalones and his recent novel “Early Riser” is a thriller set in a world in which humans have always hibernated; his latest book “The Constant Rabbit” about anthropomorphised rabbits becoming the underclass in a post-Brexit Britain was published 2020.

Check out Dan Simpson’s blog Writer’s Routine for Jasper Fforde audio interview.
All you ever wanted to know
http://www.jasperfforde.com/

Review ‘One Moonlit Night’ by Caradog Prichard for Wales #dewithon20

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Rhys Kentish image is similar to Black Lake mentioned throughout the book. In the final chapter “It’s strange that they call it the Black Lake cos I can see the sky in it. Blue Lake would be a better name…”

A young narrator recounts the village life of Bethesda in Wales where he is growing up with his ailing Mam, best friends Huw and Moi, and an assortment of idiosyncratic people.  Set during the first World War and translated from the original Welsh, I found this classic novel hypnotic, one happenstance rolling into the next with lyrical prose and stunning imagery.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
A calm Llyn Idwal, Snowdonia, North Wales, UK

Photo (above) by Rhys Kentish on Unsplash

The boy’s awareness of adult behaviour is both naïve and heart-wrenching, as well as unsettling for a reader like me.  He has several graphic encounters, from death to mental illness, told without prejudice or judgement, and his stream-of-consciousness narrative remains strong.  One thing the boy is absolutely certain of—he will not work in the slate quarry.

Looking back as an adult, I recall feeling distanced from what was really going on.  This boy is in the thick of things and Prichard captures his thoughts so beautifully for adult readers.  Some chapters brought tears to my eyes.  In chapter 4, my favourite paragraphs are when the boy awakens after a picnic.  He feels the desolation of being left behind and desperately tries to find his way home.  I remember that type of heart-thumping experience!

A great description ‘It was raining stair rods in the morning and I was sitting in school with wet feet cos my shoes leaked’ and in search of dry socks, he discovers a dead body.  The quest to find out what happened is revealed in chatter between the boy and Huw.  Further into the book, disaster strikes with three significantly life-changing farewells.

Wales Readathon Dewithon 2019 08Often a bad experience is offset by a good one; a kind gesture (usually a slice of bread) parish humour, the choir, a football match, and rollicking outdoor adventures with school friends which paint a beautiful picture of his part of Wales.

It’s never defined but I think author Caradog Prichard is reliving his early life, factual elements blending with history and mystery.  These days it would probably be described drily as ‘social commentary’.

Modern writers would do well to study this slim volume.  Roaming in the grown-up world of teachers, priests, policemen and illness, the boy is observant but has no power of his own and that simplicity transcends time and place.  He is the epitome of first-person POV, surrounded by subtext which packs a thoughtfully aimed punch.

From a man who knew what he was writing about, ‘One Moonlit Night’ (‘Un Nos Ola Leuad’) is a fine example of storytelling.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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The village of Bethesda, North Wales, UK

Welsh FlagI participated in Wales Readathon and #dewithon20 group reading of this novel.
My thanks to Paula Bardell-Hedley for her super efforts in creating this event 1st to 31st March 2020.
https://bookjotter.com/2020/03/01/wales-readathon-2020/

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AUTHOR PROFILE

PRICHARD, CARADOG (1904-1980) journalist, novelist and poet from Wales UK.
I can recommend the author biography by Menna Baines on National Library of Wales website.  Apart from a detailed look at Prichard, it contains photos of the author at home with his dog.
Menna Baines documented his life’s work, and at one point says ‘He published a collection of short stories, Y Genod yn ein Bywyd (‘The Girls in Our Life’ 1964); being heavily autobiographical, they cast some interesting light on his life but have little literary value.’ Ouch!

‘One Moonlit Night’ has Arrived!

Excitement!  My copy of ‘One Moonlit Night’ by Welsh author Caradog Prichard has arrived safe and sound.

I could read any Welsh literature but now I have the opportunity to air my views in the weekly discussions on Book Jotter’s Dewithon20 in conjunction with Wales Readathon 2020.

For further details on this event (and the book) have a look at these websites:

Book Jotter information
https://bookjotter.com/2020/03/01/wales-readathon-2020/

DHQ 2020
https://bookjotter.com/2018/03/26/dhq-dewithon19/

Week 1 Discussion
https://bookjotter.com/2020/03/06/dewithon-20-week-1-one-moonlit-night-by-caradog-prichard/

Gretchen’s stuff
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2020/02/21/are-you-ready-for-wales-readathon-2020/

Try something new!  Join us!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Poetry ‘Deep Into the Heart of Wales’

Sunday 1st March 2020 the Wales Readathon and Dewithon20 begins!  To get fired up, read Gareth Evans emotive poem, one of many he penned on a trek across Wales.

“In the summer of 2003, Gareth Evans walked the length of Wales from Cardiff to Holyhead, taking 28 days to cover over 500km and 18000m of ascent.  Twenty-eight poems were inspired by the journey.  Some are humorous, some are philosophical, some are descriptive and all are the product of quiet, solitary observation.  Join Welshman Gareth as he probes deep into the heart of Wales.”

Here is one of his poems—

“The Dragon’s Back”

Turned to motionless stone by a great Welsh wizard

His red scaly back turned to a silvery grey

The most powerful dragon that ever lived

Is harnessed by a mysterious, magical spell

His elongated head peers down on the Llanberis lakes

His massive body full of spikes is a fearsome sight

His rock-studded spine slumped high above Ogwen

Gashes line his steep sides like old war wounds shooting down to Idwal

Gullies and arêtes form the webs of his folded wings

A bristly tail drops down suddenly, decorated by spectacular pinnacles

Before flicking up again with one last majestic sweep

To its triple-pronged tip soaring towards the heavens

The roar that once filled the valleys preserved forever

In the howl of the wind and the scream of the jets in Nant Ffrancon

His beauty is held in the eagles that now circle above him

He lives on in the spirit of the people of Wales

Courage and passion are mirrored in their eyes

And his fire still burns in the depths of their hearts

By Gareth L Evans 2003

Poetry from “Deep Into the Heart of Wales”
http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewPoetry.asp?AuthorID=8106

Wales Readathon 2020
https://bookjotter.com/2020/02/03/are-you-ready-for-wales-readathon-2020/

My Dewithon20 post
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2020/02/21/are-you-ready-for-wales-readathon-2020/

‘One Moonlit Night’ by Caradog Prichard is currently winging its way to me via Booktopia.  It is the book chosen by Dewithon20 as a group read.  Or pick your own book and join us!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Dewithon Logo Daffs

 

Are You Ready for Wales Readathon 2020?

Wales Dragon Readathon Dewithon2020 (2)
This Welsh girl is reading an exciting tale to the dragon. Or perhaps she is so intent on the story she doesn’t notice the dragon until the last page. The perfect team, a cool dragon and a super keen reader participating in the forthcoming Wales Readathon and #dewithon20. Any age or species can participate. Details https://bookjotter.com/2020/02/03/are-you-ready-for-wales-readathon-2020/ or my blog post https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2020/02/21/are-you-ready-for-wales-readathon-2020/

Interested in Welsh literature?  Maybe even dragons?  This is for you!  Wales Readathon and Dewithon20 offer the opportunity for book bloggers around the world to discover Welsh writers and their works.

The list includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, in fact anything written in English or Welsh with links to the nation of Wales.

Wales Dragon Flag Dewithon2020

This 31-day literary celebration commences on Sunday 1st March 2020 (St. David’s Day) and ends Tuesday 31st March 2020.  All ages welcome, dragon optional!

The perfect time to join with the readers of Wales and follow #dewithon20 trailblazer Book Jotter

Dewithon Logo Daffs

You are free to read and write on any literary subject relating to Wales

OR

read the set book classic ‘Un Nos Ola Leuad’ (One Moonlit Night) by Caradog Prichard.

One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard

The first of four Read-Along posts are scheduled for Saturday 7th March 2020.

Dragons ahoy, I am participating again this year!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


More details—

DHQ Dewithon Headquarters

Official hashtag #dewithon20 when tweeting

Dewithon Reading List Wales Readathon Library

Book Jotter https://bookjotter.com/2020/02/03/are-you-ready-for-wales-readathon-2020/

Reading Wales http://readingwales.org.uk/en/

Welsh flag texture crumpled up

24 Stories: of Hope for Survivors of the Grenfell Tower Fire

My emotions overcame me when I read this piece…read for yourself…

Book Jotter

by Kathy Burke (Editor)

24 STORIES COVERMy routine was much as usual on the morning of Wednesday 14th June 2017: I arose early for work, fed the chickens, settled myself at the kitchen table for my first cuppa of the day and switched the TV on to watch BBC News.

For several seconds I stared vacantly at the screen, unable to comprehend the shocking nature of the images I was seeing. There was a man sobbing incoherently to a reporter and then emergency services vehicles were shown illuminating huddles of grim-faced onlookers in their flickering lights. It began to make sense when the picture jumped to a high-rise block of flats of the sort you find in cities throughout the UK, except this one had taken on the appearance of an immense Chinese lantern burning uncontrollably over a sleeping city.

This was Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey Brutalist-style construct in North Kensington…

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‘The Last Dragonslayer’ by Jasper Fforde

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The Last Dragonslayer novels by Jasper Fforde

While Thursday Next lives in a parallel universe, The Last Dragonslayer is set in a world of myths, illusions and modern magic.

Orphan Jennifer Strange, a practical teenager, runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management with eccentric magicians who create irregular spells.  But magic and dragons are losing power and Jennifer discovers evil King Snodd IV wants to grab the Dragonlands, 350 acres of prime real estate.  Jennifer dislikes the King’s greed and so does the last Dragonslayer, an old wizard named Brian who controls dragons with an ancient sword.

Helped by her cool friend Tiger Prawns, and a metal-munching Quarkbeast with frighteningly sharp teeth, Jennifer rallies to protect the Dragonlands.  Meanwhile, wizard Brian is hatching a secret plan.  Jennifer doesn’t realise she is part of that plan.

This is the first book in Last Dragonslayer/Kazam Chronicles by Jasper Fforde and I loved reading their vital quest.  Suitable for 12 years and up, the second and third books are The Song Of The Quarkbeast and The Eye Of Zoltar.  There will be a fourth book in the series but at this stage only working titles have been released; possibly Humans vs Trolls or The Strange And The Wizard or The Great Troll War.  Guess we’ll just have to wait for the next quirky edition!

Author Jasper Fforde

Publisher Hodder & Stoughton UK

Movie by Mallinson Television Productions on Vimeo screened by Sky1

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

The Last Dragonslayer Jennifer Strange

DHQ: Wales Dewithon19

My foray into reading Welsh authors began with Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next) Paula Brackston (Shadow Chronicles) and Bill James (Harpur & Iles) and now, thanks to Book Jotter Paula Bardell-Hedley and Dewithon19, I have a wonderful list to continue reading in more depth.  “dw i’n hapus iawn!”

Find more about reading, writing, reviewing Welsh literature on Dewithon19–––

Book Jotter

#dewithon19 logo

1st to 31st March 2019

Welcome to DHQ (Dewithon Headquarters), the nerve centre for Reading Wales 2019!

The people of Wales celebrate St David’s Day annually on 1st March – the date of our patron saint’s death in 589 CE. In honour of this traditional anniversary, and also in recognition of the time of year when daffodils (the national flower of Wales) explode into bloom, we will hold the very first Dewithon – Dewi being the diminutive form of the Welsh name Dafydd (David).

Throughout March 2019 the international book blogging community will be invited to write about the literature of Wales. This will include reviews and articles about novels, non-fiction publications, short story anthologies, biographical works (by or about Welsh writers), travelogues, volumes of poetry (or single poems), essay collections, or indeed any texts with a meaningful connection to Wales.

You may write in either Welsh or…

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