Peter Knox lives quietly in one of those small country villages that’s up for the Village Garden of the Year award. Until Doc and Constance Rabbit move in next door, upsetting the locals (many of them members of the governing political party – UKARP or the United Kingdom Against Rabbit Population), complicating Peter’s job as a Rabbit Spotter, and forcing him to take a stand, moving from unconscious leporiphobe to active supporter of the UK’s amiable and peaceful population of anthropomorphised rabbits.
I loved this book. Probably the most original story I have read in years – maybe even ever. Lately every book I read is either historical fiction set in the underbelly of 17th century or 18th century or Victorian England or yet another crime thriller or police procedural. And then there are the psychological thrillers with a twist you never saw coming. Yes we did because we’ve already read about a hundred of them. I’m not saying some of them aren’t edge-of-the-seat brilliant but there is a limit and I joined NetGalley in the hope that I might get to read something unique. And I just have. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (or should I say dandelion brandy – see below) but it’s definitely mine.
So here we go. The concept that rabbits have been anthropomorphised during an unexplained ‘Event’ and now live side by side with humans seems ridiculous, ludicrous and crazy and initially I struggled with it. I say initially – probably for about five minutes. But then it got better and better with little nuggets of comic genius thrown in every now and again from things like Doc and Constance distilling their own exceptional (and strong) dandelion brandy in the cellar to rabbits watching The Great Escape as they naturally adore films about digging tunnels. In fact there are so many references and homages to books and films, I can’t remember them all.
Peter Knox – a very boring middle-aged man – whose wife left him because he was (yes you guessed it) too boring lives in Much Hemlock with his grown up daughter Pippa. Peter is a rabbit Spotter. To most people they all look the same but Peter has the ability to spot the differences and so works undercover doing just that, but pretending to be an accountant. Then one day he bumps into Connie – an old friend from university. Except Connie is a bunny (bunny is now used as a derogatory term for a rabbit). Because of his ‘gift’ he recognises her after 30 years. When she and her third husband Doc (rabbits often have a short life-span so multiple marriages are common) move in next door with their two children Bobby (Roberta like in The Railway Children) and Kent. Peter must now decide whose side he is on. Some of it is hilarious but this isn’t just some silly bunny story.
The Constant Rabbit is a serious insight into the human condition and how it will take another so-called ‘lower species’ to make us realise who we really are and what we have done to this earth. It uncovers the hidden racism and the not-so-hidden hatred of anyone who is different. They’ll take over and then where will we be? It says a lot about our society and many people may even recognise themselves as marginally leporiphobic. I even cried at the end though I can’t say why without spoilers. And I laughed out loud many times throughout the book.
Please read it. I know it’s weird and bonkers at times but it really is worth it. Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.