*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author, NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: England, 2020.
There are 1.2 million human-sized rabbits living in the UK.
They can walk, talk and drive cars, the result of an Inexplicable Anthropomorphising Event fifty-five years ago.
And a family of rabbits is about to move into Much Hemlock, a cosy little village where life revolves around summer fetes, jam-making, gossipy corner stores, and the oh-so-important Best Kept Village awards.
No sooner have the rabbits arrived than the villagers decide they must depart. But Mrs Constance Rabbit is made of sterner stuff, and her family are behind her. Unusually, so are their neighbours, long-time residents Peter Knox and his daughter Pippa, who soon find that you can be a friend to rabbits or humans, but not both.
With a blossoming romance, acute cultural differences, enforced rehoming to a MegaWarren in Wales, and the full power of the ruling United Kingdom Anti Rabbit Party against them, Peter and Pippa are about to question everything they’d ever thought about their friends, their nation, and their species.
It’ll take a rabbit to teach a human humanity . . .
Jasper Fforde has a knack for taking the surreal and making it seem perfectly reasonable.
In his latest story, he starts with speed librarianism – highlighting the petty bureaucracy and corruption in (some!) local government – and moves quickly to anthropomorphic rabbits as an analogy for systemic, widespread racial and religious intolerance and the difficulties of cultural integration.
Whilst very humorous, the satire occasionally gets a little heavy-handed, as Fforde viciously skewers certain aspects of British society and presents scathing commentary on current affairs in the UK (pre-Covid), political and social. Adding to the realism of the events and worldbuilding in the story (if not the overall concept) are the plentiful footnotes, which provide history, context and other informative details about Fforde’s alternative UK, where humans and 6 ft anthropomorphic rabbits, and other animals, live uncomfortably side-by-side.
I thoroughly agree with the ideas behind this satire and share both Peter’s liberal views and failure to act decisively on beliefs until forced into it. Despite this, I never quite managed to connect with the characters and story here, and found that while it grew on me and reeled me in as events unfolded, it just never quite took off the way I had hoped it might.
The ending felt a little anticlimactic, but mainly due to the realistic attitudes and outcomes, and the moral tone left me feeling both sad and hopeful. If satire can help nudge society in a better moral direction, then I do hope Jasper Fforde’s rabbits are a small puff towards a better future!
‘Maybe it’s the default position of humans when they feel threatened,’ I ventured, ‘although if I’m honest, I know a lot of people who claim to have “nothing against rabbits” but tacitly do nothing against the overt leporiphobia that surrounds them.’– Jasper Fforde, The Constant Rabbit
‘Or maybe it’s just satire for comedy’s sake and nothing else,’ added Connie, ‘or even more useless, satire that provokes a few guffaws but only low to middling outrage – but is coupled with more talk and no action. A sort of… empty cleverness.’
‘Maybe a small puff in the right moral direction is the best that could be hoped for,’ added Finkle thoughtfully. ‘Perhaps that’s what satire does – not change things wholesale but nudge the collective consciousness in a direction that favours justice and equality. Is there any more walnut cake?’
Find more from Jasper Fforde at his website here, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
The Constant Rabbit is available on Amazon right now.