I’ve been a fan of Richard Adams ever since I first opened a paperback copy of “Watership Down” as a little kid. I have read that book so many times that I’ve lost count of how many replacement copies I’ve bought over the years. However, despite the fact that “Watership Down” is one of my favourite books (if not THE favourite), I actually have not read much else of Adams’ works. I decided it was high time to do something about this.
“The Plague Dogs” is in fact a book that I have started several times. I knew that it was a book I should absolutely love, but every time I began reading it, I was instantly put off by the introduction. “The Plague Dogs” is about two dogs who are being kept in an animal testing facility and the opening scenes are ones of incredible cruelty. Where every other time I’ve been unable to read further than just a couple of pages in, this time I managed to persevere.
Desperately terrified of further abuse at the hands of the scientists, big shaggy Rowf and Smooth Fox Terrier Snitter seize an opportunity to escape the animal research facility. Finding themselves alone on wild moors, they struggle to fend for themselves. They make an alliance with a fox who helps them bring down forbidden prey and stay on the move to avoid capture. Once the media catches wind of the two escaped dogs, their notoriety snowballs, placing Rowf in Snitter in an impossible situation.
Richard Adams is a phenomenal writer. There’s no other way about it. His writing is at once lyrical and honest, and his novel throws our treatment of animals in sharp relief. Despite his literary prowess, Adams doesn’t take himself too seriously and even at one stage uses some of his characters to poke fun at him and criticise his novel “Watership Down”. His character development is brilliant, and this book will leave you as full of outrage as it will warmth. Once you make it past the horrific beginning, the tension and complexity of the novel builds into an incredible ending. I was sobbing by the time the book was almost finished, and my knuckles were white from gripping the book so hard.
This book also held a special significance for me. Last year I had to say goodbye to my dog who himself was half Smooth Fox Terrier. Reading Adams’ depiction of the eternally optimistic, gentle and loyal Snitter reminded me so much of Bailey. How cheerful Snitter was, and then way he would dance his forelegs…well…it had me in even more tears.
There are a thousand more things I could say about this book, but I’m so hesitant to ruin the ending for anyone that I’m just going to finish my review here. “The Plague Dogs” was probably my favourite read of 2015, and I cannot recommend it enough.